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

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 5 2005
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.
“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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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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncovered! July 14 2004
Format:Hardcover
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Missed The Mark July 11 2004
Format:Hardcover
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting Revelation of a Sub-culture July 8 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
JL King's book has inspired many to take a step back and consider the reasons behind this DL lifestyle. King cites the negative image many socially conservative black men have of homosexuality as an obstacle to those men being honest with their partners and themselves about who they are. Among the more intriguing elements of On the Down Low are the peculiar approaches men on the DL have to the sexual act, seeking a strictly physical sexual relationship with their secret male partners while remaining in more traditional arrangements with women. Whether this discrepancy is a product of scrupulously guarded secrecy and shame or the natural preference of an understudied sexual identity is one of the numerous questions raised by this book. Though the infection statistics make the DL a huge public health issue, King is neither a sociologist nor a medical professional. And while a more clinical look at this issue would be welcome, King accomplished what he set out to do: provide light and insight into a world that so many have worked so hard to keep in the shadows. Overall was a quick read and offered specific insight and theoretically things to look for to determine if someone you love is involved in the DL lifestyle.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Putting Bisexuality in a negative light.." July 7 2004
Format:Hardcover
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 we say, "got caught" decided to tell his story on his take as well as his experiences on the D/L. Hopefully through this brother the message to women is to take your time, have an open and honest dialogue with your partner, and hope in return, you male partner will do the same, and whatever the outcome, it is all about choices, something that women were not given once they found out about their partner(s) infidelity or sexual behavior.
The only thing that I would find negative in the book was that bisexuality is once again seen in a negative light. As a activist in the LGBT community, Coming from the "I" Bisexuality to some is an identity, not a behavior. Bisexuality may be different for some people. It is the potential to be emotional, spiritual, and maybe but not always, sexual with both genders. It is not how you identify yourself, but how you conduct yourself in your sexual practices, wheather you are straight, gay or "in between"
Negotiating safe-sex practices with your partner in this time and age is very important, especially if you do not know their health/sexual history. Communication and honesty is very important for both partners as well as potential ones. Discussing your past with your present partner allows the person to make choices: wheather to continue the relationship and let it grow, or stop it before it develops. So, men who are bisexual (women too) should let their spouses or potential partners know so that choices could be made in the beginning and not later down the road, which can become a little bit harder, and if you do find out about it later, support services can come into play (if needed)
So remember: Honesty and Communication can open a lot of doors (or close them) choices should be allowed to be made.
(...)
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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
1.0 out of 5 stars The devil???
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... Read more
Published on July 12 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 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
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
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 6 2004 by Ms. M.
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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