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The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World Paperback – May 30, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a title that plays on Janet Jackson's epochal 1997 LP The Velvet Rope, and its anatomy of unmet desire, therapist Downs's book describes the paradigmatic ways in which early childhood molds the future lives of gay men: scorned on the playground, disrespected by Dad, loved only by Mom until their first sex with men. Through this mechanism of rejection, gay men feel unlovable, correspondingly angry and, he says, driven to heights of creativity and "fabulousness"—in addition to shopping addiction and obsessions with fat, muscle and penis size—in a bid to distract themselves from their inner shame. For Downs, the only thing that will bring an end to this spiral of torment is, finally, "validation," which produces "authenticity." Downs is an engaging writer, though prone to repeating the same few points in different words, while his patients, quoted in sidebars, often make witty quips that rival Quentin Crisp for dry, bitter sarcasm. While many gay readers will fail to recognize themselves here, others will find Downs's logic warming and even generous.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“[Downs’s] narration is well matched to his message.”

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 60508th edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738210617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738210612
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph Denney on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My copy arrrived yesterday, and it turns out that the publisher's review about the book on Amazon is completely misleading -- in fact, it's awful. Far from being a book centered on "fabulousness" (if there is such a word), creativity, and material success, this book describes just about every gay man I have ever met -- including me. While it does mention these subjects in passing, probably 99% of the book talks about how the kind of behavior we have come to think of as "normal" and even expect from gay men (judgmental, prone to gossip, secretive, perfectionist, quick to blame, body-image problems, and more) is a way of dealing with the feeling most of us have had from childhood -- that of being "second-class citizens."

Yes, these character traits do not apply to all gay men, but my guess is that at least one of the areas Dr. Downs talks about applies to every gay man on this board. The important thing to note is that this is not a book about blame, but rather explaining where these behaviors come from, and best of all, how to change them. For those of us who have never even seen a healthy gay relationship, much less been in one, he's got a whole chapter on those.

Trust me on this one, guys, BUY THIS BOOK! If you read it and it turns out none of what Dr. Downs talks about applies to you, then not only are you welcome to tell me so on this board, but if you're anywhere within driving distance of Los Angeles, I will take you out to dinner, because I definitely need more people like you in my life. For the rest of us, this book offers a picture of what an emotionally healthy gay man looks like, and a roadmap to getting there.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Downs has written an honest and straight forward book that speaks to the direct effects of homophobia on the psychological development of gay men. In The Velvet Rage, the author has taken a tremendous risk with his honesty. He has been willing to expose the truth about how the invalidation of this culture has resulted in self-loathing, over-compensation, and high-risk behaviors in the gay community. It gives the reader a window into the potential "whys" of these behaviors which in turn validates the experience of the gay man.

Dr. Downs beautifully illustrates the problems through anecdotes from his psychology practice and his own life. I look forward to sharing this book with my gay male clients both adult and adolescent as well as parents and family members who are trying to understand their loved one. This book is a potential road-map or guide for how to avoid some of these outcomes with gay teenagers who may be starting to develop similar behaviors and character traits. It is a must read for anyone working with gay youth.

In addition, Dr. Downs suggests clear solutions and provides positive examples which instill hope and optimism. His suggestions on how to overcome or prevent these outcomes from developing come from his very solid understanding of cognitive behavioral theory and humanistic psychology. I highly recommend The Velvet Rage.
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Format: Hardcover
I had reviewed all the comments posted here before I purchased the book because I usually like to get some general ideas of books I am interested in. After receiving and reviewing my copy, I'd like to say this is a great book. This book is very valuable for me personally.

So I knew I was not the 'targeted audience' (a gay white male from a middle-class family) before I began the book. I am an immigrant in Canada who grew up in Asia and didn't come to North America for school until I was 18. With that in mind, I read it really carefully. I swear I couldn't agree more with almost all of his theories. Some of the chapters almost brought me to tears. I WAS ashamed of being gay for the longest time and was not even aware of it! If Dr. Downs' generalizing theories are also applicable to me, a foreign man to this continent, how does this work?

Next, I can only guess that Dr. Downs had to target the medium gay crowd in order to reach and communicate to the most numbers of gay readers efficiently. After all, most gay people ARE in the 'average' category in its own subculture. I just don't believe it was his intention to publish this book like it was the most indisputable and verified piece of clinical work. If this book is indeed a lengthy-research paper with numbers and formulas, how many people will be interested in and capable of reading that? I'd say it is much better for someone like him to write about something typical than no one writes about nothing at all. Generalization can be the beginning to a greater understanding.

It also frustrates me when some of the people below don't even bother to read carefully what Dr. Downs had to say about setting the book's parameter of topics and discussion before they review the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I picked up this book. While the subject matter is extremely interesting to me, I feared that this book would not tackle the real issues. It seems that so many authors writing in this field tend to subscribe to a "victim model": gay men have been victimized and/or marginalized by the stratight world.

As a gay man, I have always found this approach somewhat less than satisfying. Sure, gay men are "different" and, unfortunately, continue to grapple with issues of subtle (and increasingly not-so-subtle) discrimination. However, all the carping that takes place in the "victimization model" seems to miss one critical fact: we all make choices in our lives, and about our lives, that drives our experiences as humans.

Downs directly addresses these issues of personal choice, and that's what sets his book apart from the others. Downs' book goes way beyond the societal issues that gay men confront on a day-to-day basis, and encourages gay men to make good choices that ENHANCE their lives, and to stop making bad choices that DEVALUE their lives and self-esteem. In this sense, the book is incredibly empowering. To understand that every gay man -- as an individual -- can make big and small choices that enrich his life and his relationships, even despite a predominantly straight and disapproving culture, is to break free of the victim mentality and to move on to a fully actualized life.

Downs urges his readers to take an honest self-inventory of destructive patterns and behaviors that hold them back from accomplishing great things: most importantly self-love and an honest, patient, and abiding love for a partner. Three cheers for Downs. This book should be a "must read" for any gay man who is committed to becoming his absolute best self in an increasingly crazy world.

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