I wrote something a while back asking how do we know whether something is empowering or objectifying because there really is no clear cut line. I finally determined that it was in the eye of the woman herself, although there are some markers that can help us make a pretty good assessment, for example, where the woman is looking in a picture (right at you vs. eyes down or to the side)
“One of the other differentiators between (self) objectification and empowerment is how it makes the woman/person in question feel. Is she sinking more deeply into the knowledge of herself and her sexuality, or is she looking and hoping for approval from you the viewer? Some of the sexual liberation of the 60s and 70s got reframed into greater sexual availability for men, rather than fuller, more healthy sexual expression for women. This is a side of patriarchal culture that is still being grappled with today.”
It’s a tricky thing to keep embracing your own sexual self in a world that tells you it is there for the pleasure of men, and certainly not all women really get past existing for the male gaze, but many of them do. I appreciate you clarifying your thesis.