How Cheryl's x-rated dreams signalled the rise of the . . . girl crush

Mutual affair: Cheryl Cole spoke of her saucy dreams featuring Rihanna, who in turn had said she thought Cole was hot in GQ magazine. Photo: Getty

Ever since Katy Perry Kissed A Girl -- and liked it -- there has been an onslaught of famous females falling over themselves to declare their own lady loves.

Like an oversize handbag or provocative slogan T-shirt, having a 'girl crush' has become the must-have accessory for many women in the public eye.

Just last week Cheryl Cole appeared on a breakfast radio show enthusing breathlessly about her erotic dreams featuring sexy singer Rihanna.

After being asked by the presenter if she'd ever dreamed of a fellow celeb, Cheryl replied: "Yeah, Rihanna . . . we had fun. You know, girly fun."

Her suggestive revelation comes hot on the heels of the Bajan beauty's declaration to GQ magazine that she'd love to see Chezza indulge in a bit of kinky cleaning.

"Cheryl Cole is hot!" she purred earlier this year. "I would just like to watch her work. Preferably cleaning things on the floor. Picking stuff on the floor. Bending over."

Selena Gomez says "adorkable" Zooey Deschanel is her girl crush; Emma Stone has hailed Christina Hendricks as "my kind of woman"; and even 78-year-old Shirley MacLaine has jumped on the bandwagon declaring a belief she and Dame Maggie Smith (77) "were lovers in another life".

"Girl crushes mean different things to different people," says Aisling McDermott of style website Beaut.ie.

"When we use it it's to celebrate a woman's woman -- someone that girls really admire and look up to for their looks, personality and style.

"Zooey Deschanel is currently heading up our Beaut.ie girl crushes with Mila Kunis a close second and Amy Huberman is universally adored."

She explains: "These women have a sense of humour, a sense of style and most of all they look like someone you could be really good friends with. They're beautiful in an inspirational way, not an unapproachable one."

In this arena anyway, the girl crush label is about hailing a lady other women want to take out for a drink, not take to bed.

But the sexual banter between celebs like Rihanna and Cheryl goes a step further and illustrates a growing willingness amongst women to flirt with their own sex.

A poll conducted in the UK recently revealed that 51pc of the 2,000 women questioned had passionately kissed another woman, although more than two-thirds of them confessed they'd been drunk at the time.

The subject of Sapphic love has been covered in mainstream programming, such as Sophie Webster's lesbian relationship in Coronation Street, and there's a growing visibility of lesbianism thanks to out and proud gay women like Ellen DeGeneres, Mary Portas and Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon.

But still there's something about the L word that continues to fascinate. A fact that publicity hungry pop princesses are keen to exploit.

"The whole idea of female celebrities talking about their crushes on other female stars is really just about being in the news once again by exploiting our newfound freedom to talk about sexuality and different expressions of one's sexuality," says Galway-based sexologist Dr Siobhan O'Higgins.

In many ways, it's a sign that we still live in a society not mature enough to deal with sexuality without reducing it to innuendo.

The trend for 'celesbianism' or 'fauxmosexuality', as it's been branded in the States, has been condemned by some for promoting lesbian relationships as shocking.

But whether it's done to titillate or not, there's perhaps something to be said for the fact that it does promote dialogue on lesbianism.

Paula Fagan works for the LGBT Helpline, an Ireland-wide support service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender callers. She says there's a positive side to this obsession.

"We get around 10,000 calls a year and many of them are from young people afraid to come out. If anyone in the mainstream media is saying 'this is cool, this is okay', then that's helpful.

"These are strong women talking about sexuality in a positive way. If a girl in school fancies her friend, then the fact that Rihanna has said that's okay could help her realise it's not a bad thing."

Intriguingly, bar the odd male-on-male kiss by David Walliams, we're yet to hear as much from men and their 'man crushes'.

"It's still not seen as okay for a guy to fancy another guy or even banter about it," says Paula.

Dr O'Higgins agrees. "That women feel free to talk about crushes on other women boils down to the old idea that being a gay woman is okay but being a gay man is not.

"Also, lesbianism was never illegal, whereas male homosexuality was only taken off the Irish criminal statute book in 1994."

Ultimately, though, Dr O'Higgins feels we need to move away from seeing sexuality in such limited terms.

"Sexual orientation tends to be seen as a label that is definitive -- all black and white; you're one or the other," she says. "But how one feels romantically and sexually towards others can be all shades of grey and changes as we grow as individuals within different relationships."

Ladies in love

Recently, things got hot and steamy on Twitter between XFactor judge Tulisa and The Voice mentor Jessie J. Jessie J, who is open about being bi-sexual, tweeted: “That dress you’re wearing would look great on my hotel floor”. Tulisa replied: “Stop enticing me 2 cum over 2 the dark side,” adding, “just cus I’m a first timer doesn’t mean I won’t give you a run 4 ur money”.

While married to Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie (left) confessed she could have gone up the aisle with model Jenny Shimizu saying: “I’d probably have married Jenny. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. She’s great, we had a lot of fun.”

Cameron Diaz shares every teenage boy’s infatuation with beach babe Pamela Anderson. She says: “I have a major girlcrush on Pamela Anderson. When I first saw her, I was like ‘wow, she’s so beautiful’.” In a GQ interview

Megan Fox revealed she too has experienced lady love. “I think all humans are born with the ability to be attracted to both sexes. Olivia Wilde is so sexy she makes me want to strangle a mountain ox with my bare hands,” she said.

Daisy Lowe has confessed, also to GQ magazine, that Kelly Brook is definitely her dream woman. “I think women are really hot. I am pretty much a mild lesbian,” she explained.

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