One important distinction between the greater and lesser uses of exploitation is whether having scantily clad women (and in a very few cases, men) is whether there is even the most shallow excuse for the exploitation in the story. Just like in American musical theatre any song is supposed to advance the story, the same should be true for the exploitation of women. The lowest form of exploitation is that which has no possible reason or justification.
The Japanese term-of-art for the gratuitous insertion of scantily clad women, or men, or aliens, in order to stimulate the viewer is "fan service" which simply provides without reason whatever viewer stimulation the intended audience prefers.
On the higher and more refined part of town, though, one can work elements consisting of women in spandex into the raison d'etre of the film and thus reinforce the important ideas that underlie the film experience. One film in particular that did this well was Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968) in which the sexually active lead, a woman ahead of her time, played by Jane Fonda, causes the Orgasmatron-like Excessive machine to expire after a sex marathon with Ms. Fonda thus demonstrating her superior capacity for pleasure. No cheap exploitation of women here.
And certainly we can say that the casting and costuming of Ms. Jovavitch in Luc Besson's Fifth Element (1997) was motivated by the highest ideals of the motion picture industry.
The cinema must move on from these brilliant yet analog expressions of cheesy exploitation and find new ways to demean themselves. Directors and producers struggle to find appropriate and stylistically valid ways to exploit women of both genders in order to increase the appeal and the box office of their creative works.
We are less than a month away from the release of The Martian (2015) and the material released so far seems to give very little opportunity to exploit women. This has left many scholars and fans of the cinematic arts worried that Ridley Scott may let down the side.
Catsuits and Jumpsuits in Popular Media.