Monday, June 27, 2011

Turn Me On: The Measure of a Man by PolkaDotMama


We want to know what turns you on, ladies! Which fics are rocking your world and are must reads for us Pervs? We want you to tell us what you like, what turns you on about this fic. Let’s talk about it over a glass of wine and get everyone reading it.

Title: The Measure of A Man
Author: PolkaDotMama
Status: Complete
Chapters: 1
Word Count: 9649
Summary: Jasper is drawn in by a small tease of skin that keeps his interest in a man he'd normally dismiss outright. Will it keep his interest long enough to get him past his personal bias? OOC, AH, M - SBS contest entry.

Guest Perv: Arcadian Maggie - The Measure of a Man is right up there on my list of favorite one shots. It’s one of those re-readable stories for me, the kind you can go back to time and time again and enjoy just as much the fifth read through as the first. It’s an Edward/Jasper story, and at the time it was written, the Edward was one that had rarely, if ever, been seen in the fandom before—in one character’s words, “a huge nelly queen.” He’s flamboyant and theatrical; he draws attention, and he dresses in drag.

They meet when closeted-at-work Jasper has a business dinner with colleagues at the Geisha house. Part of the way through the meal he realizes Momo, one of the geishas who performs the tea ceremony, is actually a man. He finds himself fascinated by her and by the sliver of skin at the hairline left intentionally bare of makeup.

Momo's voice was light and airy with a shyness about it. Most of the men that I knew that dressed in drag were always given away by their voices, but not her. Her voice showed not a hint of masculinity.

When Momo turned to speak with Hale, I saw the most alluring bit of naked skin at the base of her neck in the shape of a W. The points reached her upper back where her ornate, red kimono was purposefully arranged to reveal this most erotic area. I wanted to reach out and caress it, but I resisted.

PolkaDotMama makes her sound so enticing, even I wanted to kiss her neck! At the end of the meal, Jasper meets the man under the makeup, and Edward gives him his card, asking him out for drinks.

It takes a while for Jasper to contact him, and even longer for their physical relationship to develop while Jasper struggles with his attraction to a man who is far from his usual “type.”

What I adore about this story, aside from the always beautifully written sensuous and erotic love scenes, is PolkaDotMama’s insightful examination of our ideas about masculinity. As a culture, we’ve broadened our ideas of what it means to be feminine considerably; it’s past time we did the same for the men.

Jasper’s brother Peter puts it best:

"Edward is a man whether he's a leather daddy or dresses in drag. He has a dick and balls and an ass that you apparently enjoyed fucking, so knock it off. Do not take his man card away from him because he's swishy from time to time, okay?"

I was silent, taking in everything my wise brother said.

Very softly, he continued. "You're both gay men. Men! You certainly wouldn't like it if you were outright dismissed because you were too masculine. Why are you discriminating?"

Even with his discomfort, Jasper never once asks or expects Edward to change. He recognizes his issues are his own and works to overcome them. And as Jasper learns to accept Edward, he grows to accept himself as well. You’ll love reading about their anniversary and how Jasper handles his boorish co-worker at an office party.

And you’ll fall in love with Momo too.

Jen - If you read slash, then chances are you’ve read at least some of PolkaDotMama’s work. The Measure of a Man is my very favorite o/s of hers (she doesn’t make it easy to choose!), and each time I’ve re-read it I discover new things.

The Measure of a Man is the story of two men who are 100% comfortable with who they are. Jasper’s view of himself is challenged when he finds himself attracted to Edward, a man more feminine than any other man Jasper had ever been attracted to. Jasper is open to exploring his attraction to Edward, even while he puzzles over it. He is not only attracted to Edward, but also to Edward when he’s in his Momo persona.

As their relationship progresses, Edward seems to sense Jasper’s uneasiness, but never pushes, or gets defensive. The reader does not know if they’ve ever discussed it; I tend to think not. Edward’s gentle nature allows Jasper to work through it on his own.

Like Jasper, I didn’t know what to make of a somewhat effeminate Edward at first. And like Edward with Jasper, PolkaDotMama gentles the reader into accepting and loving Edward just the way he is. Because so much about Jasper’s attraction to Edward is different than what he usually experiences, their relationship also unfolds in a way that is different from the way that Jasper normally operates.

The pacing is just right, and together with the time period that the o/s covers, their relationship grows naturally and realistically. Jasper’s phone calls to his brother, Peter, always stand out when I read The Measure of a Man because of the way they form such a parallel to what Jasper feels about Edward. The calls give the story a wonderful structure, marking Jasper’s uncertainty and then acceptance about his feelings for Edward.

I’m amazed at how PolkaDotMama gets me to visualize something so clearly that I feel as though I’m looking at a painting or seeing something right before my eyes. Whether she’s describing Momo’s kimono, Jasper’s phone calls to his brother, or that highly erotocised sliver of Momo’s neck, the descriptions are incredibly beautiful.

I was giving him exactly what he wanted. And he was unwittingly giving me precisely what I wanted.

That unspoiled section at the nape of his neck.


So beautiful.

I reached for it, tracing the W that had been there the night that we met. He turned around and met my eye, knowing exactly what I was doing. He smirked before he turned back.

It was the first time I'd touched that spot.

I'd dreamed of this moment since that first night, but finally, I was brushing my thumb over his perfect skin.

I’m finding it hard to put into words how much I love this fic. From the start Jasper speaks of Edward with such reverence; it just makes my heart expand. PolkaDotMama puts me right into Jasper’s head where I can see just how erotic everything about them as a couple is.

She sat up and turned, kneeling in front of me to reveal the W on her neck and upper back.

It was exquisite. Her pale skin looking tanned next to the white makeup. I kissed her naked flesh. It was pristine.

Momo lifted her kimono as I lavished her neck with attention, and as she moved to all fours, the illusion was broken.

Edward was there with his beautiful ass and his gorgeous dick that I now had in my hands. He was all man, whether he dressed as Momo or not.

Besides falling in love and finding a partner in Edward, Jasper learns that he does not have to have such strong boundaries between his public and private selves. In accepting that he could love an effeminate man, I think Jasper came to realize that he could expose some of his private self. In reading The Measure of a Man, I not only enjoyed a lemony story, but expanded my notions of sexuality and eroticism.

Emmy - I cannot remember when I first read this story. But I do remember thinking when I first read it that it really stood out amongst the smutty lemony slashy one-shots out there. Not because it is not slashy or lemony or smutty. Because it is all three - very nicely and very unashamedly so. But because The Measure of a Man
explores most effectively, in my humble opinion, what it means to be masculine, feminine and sexual. It was certainly the first twi-fic that I had read that broached this.

This is not a forced feminisation fic. Nor a fic about a drag queen. It is instead about a man, Edward, who works as a geisha, likes to have a laugh, go out for dinner, go out to dance, drink, live, love and have sex with his boyfriend. His job as a geisha is just part of who he is. But it also reflects the fact that he is not a butch or “manly man”. He’s secure in his own skin, and is who he is, a man comfortable with his feminine side. But a man who is not looking to be treated like a lady. What is actually interesting to me is how secure and comfortable Edward is in his own skin. Yet Jasper the narrator, isn’t. He’s not able to be the ‘real’ Jasper - as he’s still in the closet to all his workmates. Work Jasper and Outside-of-Work Jasper are very different people. Whereas Edward is just Edward. Even if he plays a role in work. Jasper is playing a bigger role at his work.....

You might wonder how is this a sexy fic, particularly when some women read slashy fics purely for the delicious imagery of their imaginary favourite characters or their favourite actors getting it on. But I found this fic highly erotic. Jasper worships Edward in the bedroom. Never-ever-never have I found a body part so revered and made so sexy as the way Jasper describes the skin at the back of Edward’s neck, just under his hairline. Jasper is sensual and erotic with Edward through his tender exploration of touch. But wowser is their union intense and beautiful. Very, very sexy. Including some come-play as Jasper obsesses over certain body parts and Edward takes some control from the bottom and goes after what he wants.

This is a very easy fic to fall under the spell of. It has got a beautiful love story at its centre, wrapped in fervent and powerful loving. Its a delight to read. Edward’s flamboyance and touches of femininity are just part of who he is, but they open Jasper's eyes to so much more.

Jess - Appearances can be, and often are, deceiving. This was the situation Jasper Whitlock found himself in when he was out with colleagues after a long day of meetings. After being served tea, Jasper realized that the geishas everyone assumed to be women... were actually men.

Momo - aka Edward - is an effeminate man who moonlights as a geisha to help pay off college loans. Every gesture, flick of his wrist, shift or movement while dressed as Momo screams woman... and yet, the fact that Edward is a man rocks Jasper’s carefully built world.

Jasper had always been into “butch” men, as he so aptly calls the bulky, very “masculine” sports types he’s dated in the past. But as Edward becomes a fixture in his life, Jasper has to wrestle with what really defines “masculinity” or “manliness.” This issue is the heart of this very beautifully written one-shot.

As a reader, I found myself struggling alongside Jasper at this characterization of Edward. I think I often equate him to being macho or dominant in some way, but this Edward blew me aware. He was a walking dichotomy of effeminate behavior and man. How does someone like Jasper wrap his mind around behaviors - extended pinky finger, high pitched laugh, exuberant and flamboyant dancing, bikini underwear, skin tight jeans - he has never equated with someone he would date.

I absolutely love how Polkadotmama makes us feel all of Jasper’s struggles. Like I said, I was confused by my own feelings about Edward, and yet I found myself longing for Jasper to just get over it.

And slowly, he does. A heavy-hitting conversation with his brother, Peter, forces him to really examine his own discriminatory behavior. He accuses Jasper of projecting his own insecurities about what it means to be male onto Edward... effectively taking his man card because he’s “swishy” sometimes.

“He was a man, and I needed to stop comparing him to a women even if that's how I initially met him.”

What’s more beautiful, though, the very things that had put doubt in Jasper’s mind are the things he comes to love most about Edward. Just as they were for me.

Liz - It’s hard for me to put my finger on what I love most about The Measure of a Man. I love well written, emotive slash, of course, but there’s more here for me. I love the idea that we can all find fulfillment if we spend less time worrying about pursuing our ‘type’ and more time appreciating beauty and affection where it presents itself.

Gay Jasper sees the bare skin of a geisha’s neck and is intrigued after he discovers Momo is actually Edward. Going against his usual butch ‘type’ and instead pursuing his uncharacteristic attraction for effeminate Edward, he discovers that love and passion are less about the packaging and more about the soul within, and about being who you are. Jasper comes to love all that Edward is, beyond the stereotypical definitions of masculinity, and even beyond the stereotypical definitions of homosexual attraction. If a gay man is sexually aroused by another man’s female persona, what does that mean?

The intimacy between these two is very real-feeling, and written without the usual over-the-top lemontasticness we find in a lot of slash. Instead, PolkaDotMama gives us the tenderness and care you would expect from first-time lovers with more between them than an interest in a hot fuck.

Watching the entire time, I trailed a finger down his chest, circling his pale pink nipples until they responded to my touch. His eyes fluttered shut, and I smiled at the delicate movement. Trying to avoid where he was ticklish, I traced his lightly muscled abdomen, thumbing over his belly button. As I moved lower, his stomach quivered so I moved quicker until my fingers hit the neatly trimmed nest above his cock.

...He was absolutely beautiful.

I love that PolkaDotMama gives us characters that feel real, instead of just smutty cardboard cutouts with familiar names. As absurd as it may feel to read about Geisha Momo/Edward and closeted, uptight Jasper, I came away with a smile and renewed appreciation for taking love where you find it.

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Posy said...

I'm humbled by everything said and so pleased that The Measure of a Man was not dismissed outright when it was first published because of my Edward. I knew I was taking a chance, but I'm glad I did. I initially wrote it to test the waters for an original story. Who knows if that will pan out, but I hope it does.

Thank you for your kind words, your thoughtful examination of my story, and ability to see all the themes that I tried to weave into my story. I'm still flabbergasted. And...


Anonymous said...

The fic that I'm reading right now & "turns me on" is Isla de Cullen by CaraNo. Ladies this fic is so HOT, its a WIP but it has 25 chapters completed but you literally just fly through this, its that good. What turns me on about this fic is the dominant Edward. He's not a BDSM dom per say, he just likes control & he's very verbal about what he's doing, what he likes etc. Just thought I'd share :)