Sara Pascoe – Sex Power Money (2019)
It feels like there has been a boom in stand up comedy in the UK in the last two decades or so. Memorable sitcoms seem to have slowly dissipated, though some still remain, whereas many of the laughs are now to be found with the hilarious men and women that take on vast crowds, often hecklers, and are charged with generating mirth amongst the onlookers. Pleasingly, we have started to see more women take to the stage and perform stand up such as Sarah Millican and Shappi Khorsandi. We still don’t have enough of course but we do have Sara Pascoe who has been active on the comedy circuit for more than a decade now, a regular fixture on panel shows and other comedy programs. I have enjoyed Pascoe’s comedy in the past so was naturally curious when I stumbled upon a book of hers, Sex Power Money, on Audible.
In Sex Power Money, Pascoe explores a wide range of subjects around sex and gender, with a big emphasis on sex work and the pornography industry. She lays bare her own observations on male sexuality and their attitude to sex, the often negative perception of women as mere objects for their own gratification. This doesn’t apply to all heterosexual men, of course, but a worrying amount seem to prioritise sex over anything. This might sound like Pascoe is here to put the world to rights when it comes to sex but, if anything, she considers such areas from multiple angles, throwing in her own observations and maladjustments but taking a step back and considering things from the viewpoint of others. While we have a detailed look on men’s approach to sex, a large part of the book focuses on sex work and pornography, of the individuals that are involved in these industries. There is even a discussion about the 1993 drama Indecent Proposal where a rich man played by Robert Redford offers $1 million to Woody Harrelson’s character for the luxury of spending the night with his wife, played by Demi Moore. As you do. I’m sure you can imagine that Pascoe has one or two things to say about this film.
I found Sex Power Money to be an absorbing read. I listened to the audiobook, read by Sara Pascoe herself, and she comes across as warm, insightful and often very funny but never to the point that you don’t feel she is taking any subject seriously. The book is clearly well researched with Pascoe drawing on scientific studies of sex and relationships, even considering what may be a man’s primal instincts when it comes to the opposite sex. A mutation from the animal kingdom we may be but we retain some of our nature from there. One of the benefits of Pascoe here is that she does voice her opinions but never insists that she is right and everyone else is wrong. Her examination of sex work and pornography, in particular, proves to be an eye opener not just for her but for all of us. I would like to add that I haven’t seen Indecent Proposal but Pascoe’s analysis has done little to make me want to watch it any time soon. Thank you for this, Sara. You may have spared 2 hours of my life.
Verdict: An honest, sometimes funny, but always informative study of sex, gender, relationships, money and power.