When I was 13, and taking an interest in such things, Smash Hits magazine published a poll of readers' favourite albums.

The strong contenders included Tears For Fears' Songs From The Big Chair and Madonna's Like A Virgin . In the end the earnest psychologists were pipped at the post by the Queen of Pop.

Curt Smith of Tears For Fears wondered aloud whether they'd have come top if they'd shown their belly buttons on their record sleeve.

This sums up neatly my problem with Madonna. It was her 60th birthday last week, and all the coverage was about what a strong, successful, trailblazing "empowered" woman she is, and such a great role model for girls.

She's certainly a great example of how far you can get and rich you can become on a modest amount of talent.

But her self-promotion was always based on sexual explicitness. She never released a single without dressing in suspenders or a conical bra, flaunting her flesh, dancing provocatively and making near-pornographic videos.

Just visible on the Like A Virgin cover is the belt she is wearing, emblazoned with the words "Boy Toy".

Surely that is the exact opposite of feminism and female empowerment?

Won't she have left some of her teenage female fans believing that the only way women could be successful - or at least the principal way - was by flashing their belly buttons?

So don't worry about your exam results this week, or working hard, or being kind or compassionate or personable - as long as you've got a midriff you can expose.

Elton John once dismissively described Madonna as "a fairground stripper", which may be harsh but isn't far wrong.

Throughout her career she has used sex and sexuality as a means to an end - once stating: "I always thought of losing my virginity as a career move."

Does that make her a wonderful role model for teenagers?

And yet every commentator seems to believe she's worthy of praise because she's a rich, successful woman - and is therefore automatically empowering all women everywhere.

I doubt whether those women in part-time, insecure, minimum wage-paying jobs, struggling to look after the house as well as earn, will have felt very empowered by Madonna's cavorting on stage or on video.

Nor can women higher up the social have benefitted much. It's hardly tackling pay gaps, cracking any glass ceilings, or ending domestic violence.

It does even less to tackle sexual harassment.

And it's probably had a negative impact on other female singers. The day Madonna turned 60 the rather more talented Aretha Franklin died.

The Queen of Soul used her voice to achieve success. But singers of more recent years, such as Rihanna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus, have followed the path laid by the Queen of Pop.

They don't rely just on their vocal talent for success - which in the case of Britney Spears is probably just as well. The route to fame and fortune has to rely as much on provocative videos, suggestive lyrics and wearing as few clothes as possible.

When the suffragettes won votes for some women 100 years ago, the most optimistic might have thought we were entering a century of equality and freedom, when women would be valued for their minds and not just their faces. They will be turning in their graves.

If you've built a career on looks and sexiness and little else then it must be troubling to see that go. You can't expect to look the same at 60 as you did on the sleeve of Like A Virgin aged 26.

That's life, as any balding middle-aged man will tell you.

And if Madonna was really empowered and independent she would have aged naturally, and rejected the pressure on women in the public eye to stay looking youthful forever.

She could have argued that looking good doesn't just mean looking young. That would have been empowering to those women who, unlike her, don't have the money to buy themselves a new face.

Instead she said in an interview: "To age is a sin."

So even if she was a positive role model for teenagers and young women, she can't be an icon for older women, with all the plastic surgery.

The trail she has blazed hasn't been for the good of womankind, as so many commentators seem to think, only for herself.

So let's not hold her up as some kind of shining example. This 60-year-old woman seems to me to be both sexist and ageist.