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On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men Who Sleep With Men [Hardcover]

J.L. King , Karen Hunter , E. Lynn Harris
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 14 2004
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.

Product Details

Product Description

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 book has folks buzzing like a tree full of cicadas.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“There's a new book girlfriends have got to read. It's a page-turner.” —Newsday (New York)

“A wake-up call.” —Dallas Voice
“A good read.” —The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
“A revealing look at an important social health issue.” —Booklist
“King ultimately delivers a powerful and emotional story and must be lauded for having the courage to do so!” —QBR The Black Book Review

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing May 11 2004
This book provides a great expose` into what is a tremendous public health issue. It is an eye-opening account that begs African-American women to be educated participants in the dating process and suggests that D.L. brothers be forthright with themselves and the ladies that they are with.
Thank you, Mr. King, for the courage that it took to write this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "S'up?"-That's what I wanted to know... 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? Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Uncovered! July 14 2004
What you do in the dark will eventually surface to the light. Mr. King has stripped the covers from underneath this double lifestyle that many of our men are living. It's scarry. It makes a woman want to become a Nun. I appreciate his honesty. It took a lot of courage for him to come forth to reveal his sins of homosexuality and infidelity. I only hope that women will take heed to his message. Unfortunately, many will not and will find themselves in a heap of trouble. It was recommended to me to read a novel called "Lust Of The Flesh," and I am so glad that I read it. It was the best novel I ever read. It was different from all of the mainstream novels that are being written today. Lust Of The Flesh is full of entertainment, page-turning excitement. The author lets you know that there are consequences to your actions, without coming off as preachy. If anyone reads this review, PLEASE READ THE NOVEL: LUST OF THE FLESH. It is necessary. Kudos to the author of Lust Of The Flesh and to Mr. King. May God continue to bless your ministries.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The devil??? July 13 2004
By A Customer
This book is full of CRAP...just like the author who wrote it. And to the reviewer (who I know, but won't bust out) who left the review called "Ain't Nobody Mad But The Devil", you need to stop being pusillanimous. Let me first make it clear that none of my reviews are ever signed, so leaving this one anonymous is customary for me. However, YOU usually sign yours, Ms. Diva, so why are you hiding behind the mask of anonymity on your bogus five star review of this book? This author paid you and your company money to promote his book in Atlanta, so of course you're going to leave a lustrous, magnanimous commentary. I laugh at your imprudence. At any rate, I "amen" those who say this book isn't worth the paper it's written on. It gets ZERO stars from me...and so does the counterfeit reviewer aforementioned.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Missed The Mark July 11 2004
While I applaud King for thrusting the DL phenomenon into national prominence, I am concerned that the overall message of this book will cause more animosity for gay and bisexual men. The occurance of men who lead straight lives seeking sex with other men is as old as humankind. So King's book revealed very little or failed to break much ground. What really should have been the opportunity for open, positive, and honest dialogue between the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight communities was a witch hunt.I found several of the views presented here irresponsible. For example, King's attempts to provide clues as to how one can detect if a man is DL are laughable. There is absolutely no way to tell if a man is bisexual unless he admits it or you catch him in the act. Also King uses certain terms that are downright offensive and demeaning. These viewpoints are perpetuating self hatred and the continuence of homophobia. The culprit is not who one sleeps with....the real enemy is ignorance and hatred. People with attitudes like King's are the ones who are continuing the gay bashing gossiping/jokes at the water cooler and the Adam and Steve sermons from the pulpit. While I am in no way blaming King's book for these these things, I read this book with the hope that the overall message would be one of unconditional acceptance and King missed the mark.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars "What A Darn Shame"!!!
I think Mr. J. King's book is part of his evil plot to self-promote himself & turn even more brothas' on to this nasty-germ traveling phenomenon!!! Read more
Published on July 16 2004 by missamericababy
1.0 out of 5 stars WHY BASH YOUR BROTHA's
J.L.King, may have meant well with this long an dwordy piece but all he did was badh his own people. Read more
Published on July 14 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Ain't Nobody Mad but the DEVIL!
I am of the opinion and belief that this book simply reminded us of things and behaviors we are already well aware of. Read more
Published on July 10 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting Revelation of a Sub-culture
JL King's book has inspired many to take a step back and consider the reasons behind this DL lifestyle. Read more
Published on July 8 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Wishing it was written a decade ago...
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. Read more
Published on July 8 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars "Putting Bisexuality in a negative light.."
First of all I like to give kudos to J.L.'s book about living on the D/L. Although the D/L has been around for quite a long time, it appears that because one person who was shall... Read more
Published on July 8 2004 by Donna Redd
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Mr. King!
I'd like to thank Mr. King for writing this book. I was hesitant to read On the Down Low because I thought it was going to be a typical "black women can't keep their men" type of... Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by Ms. M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing, Poignant, and Honest
I believe that if anyone can write a book of such riveting revelations, it would have to come from someone that has had personal experience. How else can you get to the truth. Read more
Published on July 6 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars One Foot In, One Foot Out
What a missed opportunity this turned out to be. King could have used this book to make a positive difference in the lives of the men who lead a double sexual life. Read more
Published on July 6 2004 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars The blind leading the blind
So how does someone who is so confused about his own homosexuality write a bestseller about homosexuality? Read more
Published on July 4 2004
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