And he wrote voluminously. Many of his essays, as he put it in the introduction to “American Gay: Community and Perversity,” his 1998 book, “examine the social significance of gay emancipation since the end of World War II and the political response it has provoked in American public life.”
That included unearthing the pre-Stonewall history of gay life, along with economic and other aspects of it. It also included examining gay pornography, how it had changed over the decades, and how it had both reflected and helped shape gay identity. His most recent collection of essays, published last year, was “Sex, Society, and the Making of Pornography: The Pornographic Object of Knowledge.”
“Jeffrey Escoffier epitomized the radical queer public intellectual,” said Whitney Strub, an associate professor at Rutgers University-Newark whose books include “Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right” (2010) per contain email. “Especially in essays like ‘The Political Economy of the Closet’ he showed how to think and write gay economic history, even if the archives were often erased or destroyed. Later, his pioneering work on pornography prompted scientists to move beyond text analysis and think about labor, the work behind the bodies on screen.
Jeffrey Paul Escoffier was born on October 9, 1942 in Baltimore and grew up in Manhattan and Staten Island. His father, George, was an army colonel, and his mother, Iris (Miller) Wendel, ran an antique shop.
“I had my first gay experience when I was 16 in the summer of 1959,” wrote Mr. Escoffier in “American Gay”. “After that, I craved wild adventure. Growing up on Staten Island and realizing how strange I was in the sleepy working-class communities, I thought of Greenwich Village as Shangri-La.”
Mr. Escoffier received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University. He moved to Philadelphia in 1970 and received his doctorate in economic history from the University of Pennsylvania.