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It really must be getting “hot in herre,” as hip-hop recording artist Nelly famously rapped in 2002, because a whole lot of women seem to be “taking off all [their] clothes” in recent weeks, shamelessly baring all before the cameras.

Just when we thought we’d seen enough of Rihanna and her antics, here she is again posing in nothing but her birthday suit for Esquire‘s November issue. Dubbed “Sexiest Woman Alive” by the magazine, she is featured on the cover sporting patches of seaweed that do little to obscure her nudity.

Then there are those who strip down as part of their profession.

In a new book titled “Culo,” to be released in stores Nov. 22, Russian model Irina Shayk poses completely nude while lying on a rumpled bed before the camera. The photo’s only saving grace is an ink spot imposed over the image of her bottom. Meanwhile, Israeli model Bar Rafaeli, regularly touted on “sexiest female” lists, dons an assortment of French lingerie for a provocative photo shoot that is captured on video.

What is the common denominator in these images of nude or scantily clad women? Besides the obvious lack of clothing, they are all testaments to the increasingly sexualized nature of our culture. The sad reality is that these are the women who serve as teen role models, who gloss the pages of our magazines, whom girls are told are “hot,” “sexy,” and “every guy’s fantasy”! But at the end of the day, they remain just that — fantasies, products of Hollywood’s endless marketing machines. Still, scores of young girls who want to be “hot,” “sexy,” and “every guy’s fantasy” are rushing to the malls, squeezing themselves into sexually revealing outfits that demean their modesty or that suggest a maturity well beyond what their ages belie.

While some women — particularly of the feminist persuasion — perpetrate the notion that modesty equates to subjugation and shame over one’s body, many are taking a stand to prove that modesty, virtue, and intellect can be appealing. While there was much hype among the left concerning Sarah Palin’s “expensive wardrobe” in the 2008 presidential campaigns, Gov. Palin sent a positive, countercultural message to young women that they do not have to sacrifice their self-respect or conservatism, whether in dress or in principle, to reach positions of power.

Wendy Shalit, author of “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue,” put it best when she wrote, “Modesty answers not the crude how of femininity, but the beautiful why.” In the book, she goes on to say, “It is no accident that sexual promiscuity is associated with our tell-all let-it-all-hang-out talk show culture. Everything is public because there is no longer any private realm. Our dignity is in our secrets. If nothing is secret, nothing is sacred.” Whereas the trend in our culture is to leave as little as possible to the imagination, modesty lends an enchanting mystery to a woman’s body and encourages a striking reverence for its beauty.

Indeed, research shows that there is a link between the way we dress and how we are treated — as well as how we conduct ourselves, for that matter. In 1975, John T. Molloy published a bestseller called “Dress for Success,” which demonstrated how people respond to clothing and appearance. In one experiment in New York City, Molloy approached people for two hours during rush hour, claiming that he had forgotten his wallet and needed 75 cents to board a bus home. In the first hour, he wore a suit without a necktie and received $7.23. In the second hour, he added a tie and made $26. After years of such experiments and studies, Molloy reasoned that people’s clothing directly relates to their personal success.

By our own comportment, we can command respect or fall prey to unwanted attention. This does not suggest that provocatively dressed women deserve to be victimized or that even modestly dressed women are not sometimes treated indecently. Unfortunately, that is a sad commentary on the perverted mindsets of some and the squalid depths into which many have descended. However, there is something to be said for the principle of putting out what you hope to receive, and far too many women are putting out lewdness, only to bemoan the lack of respect they receive from men.

“While little girls parade around in inappropriate clothing, little boys learn that it is okay to think of girls as merely sexual objects,” says Janice Shaw Crouse, author of the book “Children At Risk: The Precarious State of Children’s Well-Being In America.”

Ladies, the time is long past due to take back our femininity and stop believing the lie that modesty is backwards, outdated and prudish. In a culture that screams, “Take off your clothes!” perhaps the most “progressive” thing we can do is keep them on.

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