I'm going to surprise everyone and say I think most of the fault (maybe 37%, with 33% avid male gawkers, and 30% being editors who don't ask them to back it off even when it gets ludicrous) is the MALE ARTISTS!
I was into art big time years back, and what's on the mind is soon on the page (some of us outgrow that but I'm guessing most DON'T) in a way it isn't in other media. TV, movies, theater - some person has to embody the concept, so that person has a bit of veto over your fevered imaginings. So no spandex in the X-Men movies (and January Jones wasn't [as] in danger of catching her death of cold in her Frost couture), failed attempts at a panted Wonder Woman TV show (the art gods weren't havin' that!), and Lady Death and Vampirella movies mercifully unattempted. But in comics, your fevered imaginings ARE that person, which is why even in relatively conservative times there have been skimpy and sexual images, although mainly for villainesses in the distant past. Then there was Emma, then Fables, and X-Women and the wheels came off the Comportment Express. And yet, the comics market has been shrinking as fast as the hemlines -- and waistlines -- of the women of DC and Marvel. Might this mean the fans are not at fault? If this was their doing, X-Women would be a miniseries, and the comics industry would still be trotting out comics in black bags for reasons other than preventing spoilers, if you catch my meaning. Could the artists be the problem?
Think I'm wrong? Consider... if you were going to boycott artists who overly sexualize female characters, which artists would you buy instead?
Yeah, me too, Amanda is the only one I had off the top of my head. Pay her to give an art class to all the guys where she teaches the art of emotional expression through the face and body, that would really change things. Seriously - I was thinking of getting back into art and I bought some books on comic illustration of the human form. They call for women to be illustrated with arched backs or always curved in their poses to show them off to best advantage - can't post the stuff here (copyright!), but that's why so many women are like Bobble Head dolls, only Bobble Hips! (See Miss Marvel's tete a tete with Norman Osborn above)
Plus it's freakin' lucrative. J Scott Campbell and others like Ed Benes can resell their female splash pages as posters, calendars... JSC can draw anything, but girls are fun and pay better.
I think Hex is right about everything, but I'd blame artists, not the fans. Morning Glories is awesome, X-Force, the Batgirl series that just ended, and they don't dip into overly sexy art. The readership wants it kinda hot but believe me 13-46 year old boys did not DEMAND the chest panel on Power Girl's uni, anymore than we demanded Jessica Rabbit. I can't even watch that movie, the misproportioning cheesecake hurts the eye; no I will not post an illo to prove my point, perv... Ooh! Another proof of my theory - remember the infamous money shot the artists added, and Disney had to quickly axe? We didn't ask for it! (Well, except you there in the back, yeah, the shifty one, we see you) The artists just liked drawing that stuff, and the editors aren't going to tell the artists that they've gone too far because they think that's what the "boys" reading comics want.
"Cool World" with Kim Basinger? Again, we didn't demand it, so it was a flop, he said, not having researched but lazily certain of his thesis...
Naw. Boys will be boys, but we want more real world, refined eye candy - bon-bons, not Butterfingers. We want a great, ongoing story with high stakes, a grand scale - okay, and I guess some fanservice, but not that much, and especially not of the mainline female heroes! Have the villainesses be dat, then the rolemodels can defeat them, symbolically overthrowing these tasteless harlots! Really, what's more likely - that Superman's cousin would wear a chest window, or some skank from space who wants to takeover the WORLD?! Then soccer moms could become comic moms, who chide their teens and tweens with "You're not going out dressed like that; why can't you be more like Power Girl? You look like that Kryptonian bounty huntress she took down last issue, running that bordell- uh, that boarding house on Epsilon-5... Now march straight to your room, and don't come out until you look like PG!"
But the real proof of my point comes from a dearly beloved animated series - Superman. In "The Main Man: Part Two" ... AAAH! Don't tell me the fans or the bosses were driving that crazy train when the wheels came off 6:53 into the below video...?!