Synopses & Reviews
A bold exposé of the controversial secret that has potentially dire consequences in many African American communities
Delivering the first frank and thorough investigation of life “on the down low” (the DL), J. L. King exposes a closeted culture of sex between black men who lead “straight” lives. King explores his own past as a DL man, and the path that led him to let go of the lies and bring forth a message that can promote emotional healing and open discussions about relationships, sex, sexuality, and health in the black community.
Providing a long-overdue wake-up call, J. L. King bravely puts the spotlight on a topic that has until now remained dangerously taboo. Drawn from hundreds of interviews, statistics, and the author’s firsthand knowledge of DL behavior, On the Down Low reveals the warning signs African American women need to know. King also discusses the potential health consequences of having unprotected sex, as African American women represent an alarming 64 percent of new HIV infections. Volatile yet vital, On the Down Low is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
"Black men living 'on the down low,' or DL as they refer to it, don't consider themselves gay; they only 'get with' men from their gym, church or club who, like themselves, lead 'normal, straight lives' with girlfriends or wives in tow. They're so deep in denial of their homosexual desires, King writes, that these men rarely practice safe sex when indulging in a little same-sex 'somethin' somethin'.' 'To put on a condom is to think about what you are doing,' explains King, who was on the DL for 25 years. 'It stops it from being a thoughtless, lustful act that they have no control over.' King volleys this warning directly at African American women, who may be unknowingly exposed to HIV/AIDs and other diseases by DL husbands and boyfriends. To protect their health and dignity, King offers insight on this closeted culture from his own life experiences (his marriage ended when his wife caught him having an affair with another man), as well as from hundreds of interviews, meetings and panels with other men on the DL. He also includes candid tips on spotting DL behavior and a description of the distinguishing characteristics of five DL 'types' he's identified over the years (Mature Brother, Thug Brother, Professional Brother, I Have a Wife/Girlfriend Brother, and the 'I'm Just Curious' Brother). Urban vernacular generously flecks King's prose (every black woman is referred to as a 'sister,' every black man, a 'brother') and sometimes seems overdone; however, King's street-wise, older brother persona is ultimately a comforting way to address this sensitive and complex subject matter." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An HIV/STD prevention activist and educator, King uncovers a deadly secret regarding same-sex partners in the black community, one that is causing health problems for the wives and girlfriends of bisexual men." Library Journal
Delivering the first frank and thorough investigation of life "on the down low," (the D.L.) J. L. King exposes a closeted culture of sex between black men who lead "straight" lives. The trend is proving to have skyrocketing health consequences for wives and girlfriends unwittingly caught in the double lives of their men: African American women represent 68 percent of new HIV cases, and an alarming one out of 160 black women carries the virus, compared to one in 3,000 white women.
Drawn from hundreds of interviews, statistics, and the author's firsthand knowledge of D.L. behavior, On the Down Low
reveals the warning signs and protective measures every African American woman needs to know. Providing a long-overdue wake-up call, J. L. King bravely puts the spotlight on a topic that has until now remained dangerously taboo. Volatile yet vital, On the Down Low
is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
Delivering the first frank and thorough investigation of life "on the down low," King exposes a closeted culture of sex between black men who lead RstraightS lives. In this explosive tell-all, the author informs women of what they need to know to save their lives and the lives of their children.
About the Author
J. L. KING is an HIV/STD prevention activist, educator, and author. His expertise has been cited in national publications such as the New York Times and Essence, and his television appearances have ranged from The News Hour with Jim Lehrer to Black Entertainment Television. The father of three, he lives in Chicago.
Why do some men live on the DL, and how did this trend begin?
Many bisexual men choose not to reveal their sexual orientation because they dread the negative fallout that such a disclosure would likely cause. Homophobia is real. We all witness the harsh words and ridicule to which the gay/lesbian community is subjected. Also, there’s tremendous normative pressure to keep closeted about any behavior that exists outside of the prevailing social and religious norms. Being judged and ostracized isn’t something most folks would sign up for, especially not a DL man whose sense of self is intricately linked to his ability to express masculinity and fulfill the traditional gender expectation assigned to men.
This is a controversial topic in the African American community. What do you anticipate the reaction to your book will be?
I anticipate that on the Down Low will spark lots of conversation within the African American community. And that’s what I hope will happen. Though it may be shocking to those members of the African American community who are not aware of DL behavior, I believe that my book will help the community to more actively address the complex issue of sexuality and how it plays out in our relationships. I suspect that there will even be some who receive the book with disbelief. But I believe they’ll be far outnumbered by the scores of women and men who’ve been thinking to themselves that this conversation is long overdue.
You do a lot of work as an HIV prevention activist. What’s the message of your book, for women and for men?
My primary message is awareness. Many women and men don’t take the time to get to know their sexual partners prior to becoming sexually active with them. We make decisions based only on what we see or what we’ve been told. Too often, that’s not the whole story. My book is a wake-up call to approach relationships with greater honor and greater caution.
What was the most striking example or fact you learned while writing your book?
There are men from all walks of life who are living double lives and demonstrating little or no control over their sexual desires and actions. Many men living on the DL express no reluctance about their behavior and have little insight into the impact of their destructive behavior.
How do you think your book will change awareness? How will it change public perceptions? And do you think it will change the way men on the DL approach their relationships?
I believe that public awareness of DL behavior will skyrocket as a result of this book. My hope is that this project will appeal to a broad cross section of people, crossing all boundaries of gender, economics, and social standing. This book is for those who are interested in understanding the specifics of this behavior, and the broader issues raised by the complexities inherent in human relationships. My prayer is that men on the DL will take a closer look at themselves through the pages of this book and that they will find the courage to be honest with themselves and the women with whom they’re involved.
If a woman finds out that her husband/boyfriend is living on the DL, what advice would you give her?
That would depend on the larger context of their relationship. If he has come to her, shared his painful secret, expressed both a willingness to eliminate the behavior and a strong desire to heal their relationship, I would ask her to be open to that. Especially if the other aspects of the relationship are solid. Many DL men want to stop the behavior and would agree to seek counseling if they didn’t dread the backlash. It is important that men who come forward be able to maintain their dignity, pride, and manhood. On the other hand, if she finds out about his DL behavior and then he is less than forthright or refuses to discuss it at all, she should end the sexual relationship because he’s still in denial about his sexuality.
Now that this taboo subject has been brought to light, what’s the next step in your mission?
I want to create a series of open and candid discussions around the subject of relationships. Many women have expressed to me that they are very concerned about the prospects of creating loving, monogamous relationships with men who honor them and who are honest with them. My goal is to create channels of healing between Black men and Black women.