Jeffrey Escoffier, health official and gay theory expert, dies at 79


And he wrote extensively. Many of his essays, as he said in the introduction to his 1998 book American Homo: Community and Perversity, “explore the social significance of homosexual emancipation since the end of World War II and the political reaction it precipitated in American public life.

This included digging into the pre-Stonewall history of gay life, as well as its economic and other aspects. It also included examining gay pornography, how it had changed over the decades, and how it had both reflected and helped shape gay identity. Her 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,” Whitney Strub, an associate professor at Rutgers University in Newark whose books include “Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right” (2010), has declared by e-mail. “In particular, in essays such as The Political Economy of the Closet, he showed how to think about and write gay economic history, even when his records had often been erased or destroyed. His later pioneering work on pornography called on scholars to move beyond textual analysis and think about the work, 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. Her father, George, was an army colonel and her mother, Iris (Miller) Wendel, owned an antique store.

“I had my first homosexual experience at 16 during the summer of 1959”, wrote Mr. Escoffier in “American Homo”. “After that, I was thirsty for wild adventure. Growing up on Staten Island, realizing my homosexuality in its sleepy working-class communities, I thought of Greenwich Village as Shangri-La.

Mr. Escoffier earned 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 completed a doctorate in economic history at the University of Pennsylvania.


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