On the Down Low : A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep With Men
A bold expose 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.
"A survey by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that nearly a quarter of black HIV-positive men who had sex with men consider themselves heterosexual."
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April 04, 2005
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Excerpt from On the Down Low by J. L. King
ON THE DL
I spotted this brother from my pew, ten rows back. His broad shoulders seemed to take up two seats. His physique was not burly, but the definition of his muscles was noticeable even through his light wool suit. His face was striking. He was a light-skinned brother who wore his curly hair cropped close on the sides and a little higher on top. He had a square jawline and sharp nose, and every time he turned to smile at his wife, I noticed the dimple on his right cheek. She was pretty, too--a petite woman with a caramel complexion and straight hair, which she wore on this particular Sunday up in a conservative bun. He "Amen-ed" every time the pastor hit his mark.
I was new to this church. I made it my business to introduce myself to him after the service. When our eyes locked, I knew. He looked at me just a little too long.
Mike worked for a mental-health organization in the Midwest and was a member of a Greek fraternity, a deacon in his church, and well liked. We hit it off instantly. I invited Mike to go with me to a card party, where he had a great time. Afterward we went back to my place, and soon we were making that connection. We didn't get into anything too deep. He was not feeling me like I was feeling him. Instead of becoming sex buddies, we became good friends. He and his wife, who was six weeks pregnant, would hang out with me and my lady friend. Later, when I had my kids for weekend visits, I would take them over to Mike and Sheila's house. Mike and I talked on the phone every day and would share some personal secrets. We became so close that I would let Mike use my apartment to get with his dude. I spent a lot of time out of town, so I gave him a set of keys, and he was free to do whatever in my space. His office was about a block from my place, so it was easy for him and his dude to slip away during lunchtime. His wife loved me and never suspected what either of us was up to. In her mind, if Mike was with me, he was cool because I was cool.
One evening Mike showed up at my house, crying. He was so upset he could barely hold himself up. He told me that he had applied to have his life insurance increased by $250,000. With their baby on the way, Mike wanted to make sure that his family would be properly taken care of. But he had to take a complete physical to qualify. Mike told me he got a call that afternoon from the insurance company telling him he had been declined for the increase.
He said, "J., the only reason they would decline me is if my HIV test came back positive." A lot of times the only way a man finds out he's HIV positive is when he either donates blood or goes for a physical for a life insurance policy, which includes an HIV test. Mike said the doctor's office also called and wanted to talk to him about the results of his physical.
"J., you know I mess around with dudes." He was a bottom (meaning he liked to be penetrated).
"Do you use condoms?" I asked him, knowing the answer, but not knowing what else to say.
"You know I don't use no condoms," he said. "My dude is cool. He's clean. He has a wife, too. And he told me he was just fucking me."
That's a classic line. If you're living on the down low, or DL, and you're lying to your wife or your girlfriend, then there's no reason why you wouldn't lie to every dude you're sleeping with, too.
"Man, what are you going to do?" I asked him.
"What do you think I should do?"
"Bro, tell you what I think. Let's say you contracted it from a woman. Even better, why don't you tell your wife that when you were on a business trip in Las Vegas, you picked up a prostitute, and the condom broke. Ask for forgiveness for that one night of indiscretion. She'll believe that."
"You think they'll believe that, J.?" Mike asked.
"Bro, trust me," I said. "It will work."