The question should be open to receive answers, but with lots of structure.
First, I'll respond to the specific points raised by StrongBad.
- "I cannot possibly see how a comment about women's lingerie can be construed as having anything to do with academia."
It wasn't the underwear that had to do with academia, it was the setting where the underwear remark occurred, that created the connection with academia, and the nature of the question "How can I avoid a faux pas of this type?".
"The question fails 3 of the 5 don't ask tests."
(a) "Every answer is equally valid, as in, “What’s your favorite ______?”. Why I find X offensive is no more or less valid than why someone else finds it offensive (or not)."
I believe it's possible to provide a comprehensive answer which explains each of the levels on which the elevator remark was offensive. There are innumerable answers on this site that involve a list of points. Just because a question has a multi-part answer doesn't mean it isn't well posed.
- (b) "There is no actual problem to be solved, as in, 'I’m curious if other people feel like I do.' This is essentially what is being asked."
Actually, OP starting out by saying, Such-and-so respected body found that the remark was offensive. He goes on to say, help me understand how it was offensive, and suggest how I can avoid being inadvertently offensive. So, OP isn't curious if others share the respected body's determination that the remark was offensive. In fact, he asked that people not get into a debate about that, and simply take the respected body's position as a given.
- (c) "Your question is just a rant in disguise, as in, '______ sucks, am I right?'. I cannot help but think one of the motivations for asking the question is that the OP feels the sanctions (and negative press) were unfair."
I didn't take the question that way. It seemed to me that OP was asking how to avoid giving offense because he wanted to know. The question wasn't a rant in disguise because rants in disguise don't go past the complaining stage, or if they do, the constructive part is of less importance than the complaining part. (For hybrid posts, that combine rant + constructive part, there's an easy rescue -- edit out the rant part; and this leaves a well-posed question that can be left open.)
- "Third, the question is rather broad and I believe requires an answer that covers the history of sexual harassment/discrimination and the 'Elevator Floor Announcement' trope. While it is possible that someone will provide a sufficiently broad answer, I think it is unlikely given the number of answers the question has already received."
I looked at your link for the trope; it appears to be tangential. Regarding the history of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, while that's a fascinating topic, the question can be answered without writing a historical treatise.
There are other questions on this site that someone might feel tempted to answer with an overblown answer. That doesn't mean the questions are badly posed.
- "I think the answers are going to continue to be based on personal experience/views which are controversial and lead to extensive discussion in the comments."
In my opinion, a subjective answer based purely on personal experience wouldn't be a well-constructed answer.
(If you're still concerned about this, the moderators could create a ground rule for this question, that answers that consist of nothing but the OP's subjective experience will be removed.)
One of the major challenges Academia SE faces has to do precisely with gender. Each question related to gender issues is a learning opportunity for individuals who participate here, and for the community as a whole.
I do appreciate the headaches this question creates for the moderators; but I have a lot of confidence in our moderators. I think they're up to the job of keeping things organized and civilized -- with the help of community members responsibly raising flags when needed.
One or more good answers to the question OP raised would add to the value of the site.