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On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men Paperback – April 5, 2005


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On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men + The Straight-Up Truth About the Down-Low: Women Share Their Stories of Betrayal, Pain and Survival
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076791399X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767913997
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The closer a secret is kept, the more powerful the impact once it is finally revealed. Such is the case with author and activist J.L. King's intriguing look at the lives and lifestyles of black men who sleep with other men but do not consider themselves to be gay. These men live "on the down low," the "DL" for short, and their sexual activities have gained significant notice as the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in black women has skyrocketed, with the vast majority of cases coming from heterosexual sex. King is a veteran of the DL himself and his book serves partly as a social and psychological survey of the other men he has surveyed and partly as highly candid memoir. King was well regarded in his community, popular at his church, successful in his career, and married to a woman who had no idea that his secret life existed. But when she caught him in a lie and with another man, the marriage collapsed and King's long and painful path to self-awareness began. King cites the negative image many socially conservative black men have of homosexuality as an obstacle to those men being honest with their partners and themselves about who they are. Among the more intriguing elements of On the Down Low are the peculiar approaches men on the DL have to the sexual act, seeking a strictly physical sexual relationship with their secret male partners while remaining in more traditional arrangements with women. Whether this discrepancy is a product of scrupulously guarded secrecy and shame or the natural preference of an understudied sexual identity is one of the numerous questions raised by this book. Though the infection statistics make the DL a huge public health issue, King is neither a sociologist nor a medical professional. And while a more clinical look at this issue would be welcome, King accomplished what he set out to do: provide light and insight into a world that so many have worked so hard to keep in the shadows. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

King is very straightforward about the phenomenon, called the down low, of "straight" men having sex with other men without disclosing it to the women in their lives. Having spent more than 20 years living the dual life of the down low, King is familiar with all the personal, psychological, social, and even religious implications of living on the down low and the risks this lifestyle poses to the spread of HIV and AIDS. He recalls his struggle with self-gratification, the fear of exposure, and the responsibility to his family before coming to the conclusion that he owed his family honesty. King also cites respect for black women as a motive for disclosing his secret, though the reader might question how much respect he had for 20 years. But that's part of King's point in his disclosure, that men on the down low and the black community itself, with little tolerance of homosexuality, need to be more honest and open on issues of sexuality. This is a revealing look at an important social and health issue. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I think that every woman should read this book.
Shanell Latimer-davis
J L King has not explained why many African American men are on the DL.
Erick L Boyd
This is a very informative book and definitely a must read.
Lady Rose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
J.L. King tossed a lit firecracker into the audience on Oprah's TV show when he talked frankly and honestly about black men living on the down low: supposedly straight men who sleep with other men but refuse to acknowledge they are gay or bisexual. The audience's visceral reaction told how King had hit a nerve. In this book, King talks straight-up about the pressures on black men to "be a man" and the deep-rooted homophobia in the black community that not only encourages, but practically forces men to keep any homosexual desires or activity deep undercover.

King is up front about his own experience living on the down low and urges women to be careful in choosing their partners. Well and good, but looking at King's own example, how are women able to tell who's living on the down low and who isn't? The danger to the wives and girlfriends of these men, as King explains, is that the men are so deep in denial they refuse to practice safe sex with other men, because that would mean admitting they have sex with other men, and the denial goes so deep that the men constantly lie to themselves about their own sexual activity. The soaring HIV rate among black women who were infected by black men living on the down low is terrifying proof of how this problem has impacted on the African-American community. I've personally known two women who died of AIDS after being infected by men living on the down low whom they thought they could trust -- one by her live-in partner; the other by her husband.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By thesavvybamalady VINE VOICE on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
To all of you out there who feel you know your man, to those of you out there that now you do the "DL",to those of you who know but have their heads stuck somewhere it don't need to be, GET THIS BOOK!!! I cannot emphasize how much you should, if you can't BUY it, go to the library and BORROW IT!!! I saw this guy on Oprah just two weeks ago, and I tell you, It made me really think twice about wanting to be with someone. Because a lot of women are catching AIDS unknowingly and unwittingly thinking their man is exclusive with them, when in reality, they are going with them, as well as men. That is one of the most hurting things to find that you have someone and they cause you this pain. Don't get caught a minute longer out there. Read this book. And while your at it, it won't hurt to read E.Lynn Harris' novels as well. BE Prepared and be aware folks!!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Here in Atlanta, J.L. King and his new book is all the buzz. Never have I even fathomed such truth! Sometimes I had to bring myself back to reality that this was not Fiction...these are real stories, told by real men!! WOW...And because the DL man is your everyday Professional, Thug, or Ladies' Man - it makes me more aware of my husband's actions. He is definitely a Man's Man, but I see that no one is excluded from living life on the DL!
A great book! I give it 5 stars, an A+, and lots of kudos to Mr. King for being so candid! I finished this book in less than 24 hours, and I could not put it down. Now I"m passing it on to my single sister, who is heavily on the dating scene.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By K. J. Bryant on May 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I first heard of the term "DL" from two men who are no longer alive. One of them was a lead singer of a very popular 90s R&B group and the other one was a successful brother who was known for being a "lady killer". Both men slept with men and women and in the beginning, neither was really honest about who and what they were about. Also, I live in the ATL and its been said that 4 out of 10 black men are sleeping with men or have slept with men. 4 out of 10 men in the ATL!!! This is almost half the population. Now, I don't have a problem with gay or bisexual men, but I do have a problem with men who are NOT honest with their women (or themselves). Women this book is the first step of protecting ourselves. If we don't look after ourselves, then who will? And please don't think this is only a "black on black" issue. I have two friends (one latina and the other one white) who learned their black boyfriends was on the DL. J.L. is doing us a big favor by writing this book. However, I was disappointed that he hasn't come to terms about himself. He seems very bitter about his situation. You can tell he is resentful and that he doesn't consider himself gay or bisexual, so he is still dealing with his issues. But I applaud him for writing this book. He is saving lives. However, I am very sad. I am sad that after all these many years of pain, struggle and hardships that this is the current situation for the black community. Sad.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This was indeed a very informative book. I could not put the book down until I finished it. The author answered questions that my husband would not. Now I have a new sense of compassion and will be able to move on to begin again...without him. My husband is a DL brother and is still in denial. Hopefully he as well as other DL brothers will follow suit and be honest with themselves as well as their sex partners...male or female.
PLEASE; if you never read another review, I urge you to read this book. This is no joke. I was spared from ALL STD's, including AIDs, by the grace of God...eventhough he was practicing unsafe sex. Save yourself and your family from these "jokers" because they do not have your best interest at heart. My kids should not have to go through the hurt and shame that my husband has put us through.
His actions will affect us for the rest of our lives.
"Kuudos" to you, Mr. King.
I am so proud of you for sharing a bit of honesty.
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