on April 28, 2004
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.
King himself is sending a mixed message; on the one hand, he is forthright about the extent of the problem and the need for women to protect themselves; on the other, even as he acknowledges he has been part of the problem, he gives no indication that he is going to cease and desist, or even practice safe sex with his female partners to protect them against possible infection. It's almost as if he were saying, "Ladies, here I am; play at your own risk." But I'll give King his props for being honest about his own behavior, and how the problem of men living on the down low has put millions of women at risk. As the book emphasizes, it's up to every woman to take steps to protect herself, because, in the end, nobody is going to look out for you but you.
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!!
on May 5, 2004
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.
on May 3, 2004
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.
Last August the New York Times did an expose' on the subculture of black men who carry on a bisexual life or as they call it, being on he down low. This is a term used that infers that something is done in secret. Only these secrets are being revealed because of the alarming rates of black women who are being infected with the HIV virus, most often by black men who sleep with both men and women. J.L. King in his recent release, On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of "Straight" Gay Men has elaborated on this lifestyle in his quest to bring it to light. King received death threats for coming out about this topic. His appearance on the Oprah Show fueled national dialogue which resulted in the premature release of the book which at this time is on the New York Times bestseller list.
OTDL explores the life of men who do not consider themselves homosexual or bi-sexual. Their attraction according to King is strictly sexual and no real feelings are involved. The majority of these men prefer and want to be in a loving relationship with a woman and a great majority are married with children. Their desire is to be with a man who is in every sense a man and would not be with an effeminate male. In exploring the reasons for these desires, King cites among others is the need to be dominated, to be held and the high esteem in which the penis is held.
This issue is not new in any community. Down low behavior has existed since the beginning of time and has always been a part of the black community. However, King addresses how the attitude in the black community and the black church about homosexuality contributes to down low behavior. There is also a chapter on how women can detect down low behavior and how important it is to use protection.
This was the Marcus Book store club selection for May. The overall consensus was while this book brought out a situation that many women had not considered and had them rethinking their relationships, most of us felt the author, in some cases generalized down low men. Even though he listed the five types of down low men, i.e.; the Professional brother, the I'm Married brother, and the Thug brother----even within these categories are subcultures of down low behavior. Furthermore, we felt Mr. King had contradictory information in regard to his own life. He seemed to be conflicted about his identity and not come to grasp with his continuing in this behavior. Mr. King's own marriage was destroyed when his wife found how about his secret and he wants his grown daughter to avoid going through such pain, yet the crux of the whole matter, cheating, lying, deceitful behavior, with impunity is not fully addressed. While this was a worthwhile effort, professional experts could have shed more light into this phenomenon making it a more rounded examination.
Marcus Book Club- Oakland
on July 8, 2004
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.
on May 18, 2004
J. L. King's part informative, part personal book exposing the trend of down-low African-American men who sleep with other men leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Granted, I commend him confronting this decadent truth that many women (and some men) don't seem to know about or turn a blind eye to. He provides an honest look at what this DL behavior is doing to our communities, our homes and our relationships, and paints a disturbing portrait of the rise of HIV among young people. King also imparts prudent advice to women looking for signs about their men and counsels them to care about themselves and their health a little more.
Yet, how can a man who sleeps with another man deny his own sexuality? That, in my opinion, is the root of this problem. That disavowal of who they are is what's killing African-American women and men at an alarming rate. Although King does tell men to be honest with their partners, making them aware of their sexual tastes, he doesn't encourage men to confront their own sexuality enough. Labels aside, you should get to know yourself before you get involved with someone else. They don't have to scream it to the world, but at least to thine own self be true. As Black women, we will always stand behind our men, and for us they need to be honest with themselves.
For what it's worth, King has done his homework and gotten in touch with himself about his life and issues. I applaud him. For our sistahs and brothas' sakes, DL men should do the same.
on July 22, 2004
I'd like to respond to part of my fellow Brooklynite, Scott Hamilton's review. Scott mentioned that King's book "bashes [DL brothers] over the head without any clear direction as to how to come to terms with self." Scott, with all due respect, DL brothers are in need of some serious bashing. Assuaging (sp?) the guilt of those men who have unprotected sex with men and their unsuspecting wives or girlfriends is plain trifling. Homophobia in the black community and the inability to come to grips with one's own sexuality are insufficient excuses for playing with other people's lives. The most disturbing thing about DL brothers is not that they sleep with men and women, but that they are unfaithful to their female partners (which is wrong, regardless of WHO you cheat with), they do not give their women partners the opportunity to choose whether they wish to be in a relationship with a Bi-sexual man, and many of these men do not use condoms. Simply put, they are playing with these women's lives, as well as their own lives and the lives of their male partners. You are correct that "there is an increased scrutiny of anyone in the GLBT community," but that doesn't make it okay to deliver a death sentence to people's pillows. I believe King stated that Black women consist of six out of every 10 new HIV cases and that 75% of these women contracted the virus from a man. (Don't quote me on those stats)Forgive me, but DL brothers do not need a hug and a "we understand you" speech. Our community is dying because we don't believe in condoms, can't control our libidos, are only interested in instant sexual gratification, and are selfish. If those facts mean that "King has taken only one step out of the closet and pushed many of his brothers much deeper inside," DL brothers have only themselves to blame. They provide the ammunition.
Contrary to Mr. Scott, I think King does provide "clear direction as to how to come to terms with self." Honesty, condoms, and self-discipline. It's not rocket science, and we don't need a Ph.D. to understand that. King even states that DL brothers who are not willing to give up the life should use condoms when sleeping with other men and/or be honest with their female partners. If you MUST have sex with every handsome man that comes your way, even while in a relationship with a woman, pick up a box of Trojans and and stop helping to kill yourself and your race. Don't blame "fire and brimstone preachers" and homophobia. Just visit your local Duane Read or Rite Aid and get some condoms. Simple simple simple.
I thought King's book was very good. However, one problem I had with this book is that King describes men's need to have sex with other men (even when in a relationship with a woman) as being uncontrollable. He even goes so far as to mention that some men who usually don't curse will often curse while having sex with another man, or that men often make ugly faces while having sex with other men,and become "possessed." He talks about his history of always being on the prowl to find a man to have sex with. That was hilarious to me, because that just seems to describe an orgasm. Men make funny faces, and cuss and get possessed when they have sex with women. King's arguments that the urge to go out and have sex with another man is "uncontrollable" is no different or stronger than men who say they cheat with women "because they can't help it." Although King attempts to give the reader a glimpse into the psyche of DL brothers, he comes across (in my opinion) as absolving men of any responsibility for their actions and the choices they make to sleep with men while in a relationship with women, and painting them as sex-crazed uncontrollable freaks on the prowl. I'm sure that was his intention, because he gives the totally opposite view in other parts of the book. It was during those moments that I had to remind myself that you have to take some of this book with a grain of salt because homeskillet does not have a graduate degree in psychology.
One last point. I think the issue surrounding DL brothers and the rise in AIDS cases in the black community is about something less (or perhaps more) complicated than bi-sexuality, whether one can choose sexuality/inner struggle with one's sexuality and "gay bashing." This is about infidelity. Some of these men are being unfaithful. A man having sex with a man outside his relationship is "cheating" just as it would be if he had sex with a woman. Are sexual urges so strong that DL brothers just have to go outside their relationship to have sex, or disregard marriage vows?
I'm a 25 year old virgin, and at this rate, I won't be having sex anytime soon. If I were religious, I might become a nun. Or perhaps I could find me a non-Black dude to have sex with. But, with my luck, I'd end up with a Chinese Muslim dude from Ghana on the DL. Or, I could die a virgin. Oh well. . .
on April 23, 2004
and J.L. King tells you exactly what's up and how "DL" brothers use the term "S'up?" or a nod and a longer than normal handshake to convey they are interested in another brother. It's a short book that can easily be read, as I did, in one day. J.L. King made a point to say that he felt more black men were heterosexual than homosexual, which I think was good for a black woman to know because when you do read this book and the graphic details of how these brothers on the down low hook up so easily and have unprotected sex with each other, you could easily become paranoid that your man or husband is on the down low. Particularly since most of the real-life scenerios he provided were with married men with children or men engaged to be married. I do recommend this book highly. I only hope that not only African-American women will read the book, but also African-American men who are living on the down low. I can respect J.L. King for coming clean and trying to educate black women of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and the link he feels it has through his research, to these DL brothers. I just hope it helps because even J.L. King mentions in the book on more than one occassion of how society puts pressure on women to get a man, and how he receives several emails from women asking him what they can do to keep their man away from men. I would have rated this book a five if it would have kept up the same intensity that it started with but toward the middle some of the messages he tried to convey seemed not only redundant but mixed. He definitely seemed to have a problem with men who have sex with men, yet he is one, maybe that's just my take on the book, but I kept saying to myself, he doesn't seem to like this behavior at all so why won't he stop? Is it an addiction that he's trying to stop? Also, for some reason, I couldn't get into the chapter on DL behavior types so I did speed read through that chapter. Probably, because I don't believe women can always look at a brother and based on this or that, such as behavior types, say, "yeah, he's on the down low," but I do have friends who do that and I've also done it before. If we say it enough, eventually, we'll be right. I agree more with what he suggests women do who feel something isn't right by getting nosey. I also agree, like he says, that we can't take it overboard and suspect for no reason and lose what was probably a good man. I definitely recommend you pick up the book, read it for yourself, and if you're suspecting a brother you're dealing with now may be on the DL, if you're right then I'm sure the sight of you reading J.L. King's book may have him thinking twice about telling you lies, and even if it doesn't be sure to discuss it with him, chapter by chapter. If he has any conscious, maybe he'll come clean or if not at least, pull a disappearing act so you won't have to go to the added expense of hiring a private detective. You've already wasted enough time, why add money to the equation. And to all the DL Brothers out there - please follow J.L. King's lead and get honest with women and of course, yourself.
-Reviewed by Cheryl for [...]
on April 29, 2004
The book captured my attention so much I finished reading it less than 3 hours. It provided so much information and brought clearity to things that I have witnessed in my own life with men I know. The attitude men have about their relationships and personal health is shocking. I have a daughter myself and I would hate for her to became victim to the thoughtlessness of her male partner. King shared information that a lot of us are aware of but either chose to ignore the signs or think it could not happen to them. I would recommend this book to every woman whether they are in or out of a relationship because it is good reference material to keep handy.