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On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men

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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 o 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.


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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 o 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.

30 review for On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ezraela-Baht

    Well, well, I can honestly say that I learned alot from reading this book, it showed me alot of things I had no knowledge of, it helped me to determine what I need to look for when dating someone new. Needless to say most brothers called this author a "player hater" but I considered him a "wake up call" Well, well, I can honestly say that I learned alot from reading this book, it showed me alot of things I had no knowledge of, it helped me to determine what I need to look for when dating someone new. Needless to say most brothers called this author a "player hater" but I considered him a "wake up call"

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dr. KC Robinson

    Based on this book, J.L. King wanted the cake, the icing, the glass of milk, and to eat and drink them all. I find this book to be full of excuses for a man to play both sides (in this case, his unsuspecting wife and his play-friends). If someone chooses to be down-low, low-down, gay, bi-sexual, or anything else that could cause major issues in a relationship, be an adult and bring it up with the person you say you care about. That would stop all the pretense and fear of being caught out. Allow Based on this book, J.L. King wanted the cake, the icing, the glass of milk, and to eat and drink them all. I find this book to be full of excuses for a man to play both sides (in this case, his unsuspecting wife and his play-friends). If someone chooses to be down-low, low-down, gay, bi-sexual, or anything else that could cause major issues in a relationship, be an adult and bring it up with the person you say you care about. That would stop all the pretense and fear of being caught out. Allow your partner to choose what they want to be involved in. He failed to do this and seems like he is only sorry he was caught, not that he was wrong. That's what ticked me off about this situation. I applaud his wife for not going "street" on him. As a Christian, I know that's how she forgives him, but lives without him. As a reasonable woman, that's how she stayed out of jail when she found out what was going on. Prayer is what is keeping him now. He needs to wake up and recognize the grace of God that is maintaining him long enough for him to get his act together. But, even God's mercy runs out after a time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    To say that I did not like this book would be an understatement. But first, let me be clear on a few things. For this book I decided to break down how I rated this book based on content, likeability, editing and writing. I would have thought that with a book like this that made such headlines on the freaking Oprah show would have been better written. The writing for me - though it was a fast read - felt jumbled and paragraphs and sections seemed to be out of place. So essentially the writing and To say that I did not like this book would be an understatement. But first, let me be clear on a few things. For this book I decided to break down how I rated this book based on content, likeability, editing and writing. I would have thought that with a book like this that made such headlines on the freaking Oprah show would have been better written. The writing for me - though it was a fast read - felt jumbled and paragraphs and sections seemed to be out of place. So essentially the writing and the editing went hand in hand. The editor should have been able to edit the book and clean it up. To me, it felt like a rough draft. I even voiced that bit out loud by stating that if this was the best the editor could have done for this story then I didn't want to see it beforehand, and basically that the person who worked on this book afterwards was a damn miracle worker. But all the blame isn't on the editor. As a writer you need to be able to tell your story - whether it be fiction or non-fiction - and I just felt like the author wasn't being truthful and held back on a lot of things, lied, and so on. 1 Star. That brings me to likeability. I can't say that this is a book that anyone would possibly like . It's not a fun story, people. And at some points it read like a pamphlet on the statistics of African American men and women affected and diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I would have liked the author to have given us more about himself, tell us his story and things that happened to him and not just "stories" of others. He went on and on about denial when it was glaringly obvious that he, too, was suffering from the same thing, sadly. 1 Star. Now, onto content. Content was where he got the highest rating from me. A solid 3 stars for what his book talked about. The lifestyle of these down low brothers and all that it entails. I need to say that it is an absolute eye-opener, informative, definitely very scary and disgusting. To think that people value human life so little as to put it at risk so callously is appalling, disgusting and shocking. I can't even begin to explain how reading one part of this story about a 17 year old young man made me feel. How he ended up with a death sentence for being so naive and innocent. Overall, like I said before, it was a quick read, so that was a perk for me since I didn't want to give too much time to this book because of how much I disliked it and due to how much it made me angry. So maybe that's a plus? I'm not sure. Then I was flopping back and forth on whether it was a 2-Star book or 1-Star book. As you can see, I made my decision. 1 Star

  4. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    As much as I like to read, I found this particular book hard to get through. It wasn't boring at all. However, I found it to be troubling. Our brothers need to be more open about who they are (Bi-Sexual, Homosexual, Heterosexual) with the sistah's. Truth be told, we are always the last to know and have to suffer the most from their indiscretions. Now, my reason for not being able to finish the book: it's down-right sickening and disturbing, yet informative. To know that there are signs that they As much as I like to read, I found this particular book hard to get through. It wasn't boring at all. However, I found it to be troubling. Our brothers need to be more open about who they are (Bi-Sexual, Homosexual, Heterosexual) with the sistah's. Truth be told, we are always the last to know and have to suffer the most from their indiscretions. Now, my reason for not being able to finish the book: it's down-right sickening and disturbing, yet informative. To know that there are signs that they give each other to get with each other; even while they may be with their sufficient other in the same room; that's disturbing. Yes, sufficient other, meaning wife, girfriend, fiance. Yes, they call themselves "Straight", yet have the desire to be with other "Straight" men. He goes on to give reason's why "Straight" men do it, the type of men who do it and how we as sistah's can pickup on this behavior and address it. This is not for everybody.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I saw this guy on Oprah years ago, so when I saw this book at the library I decided to see what he had to say. I had the impression during the interview that he was 1. a bit full of himself and 2. a bit in denial. I had those same impressions reading this book. It seems that he realizes a bit of that between this and his next book. I think he has an important health message to deliver, but he gets too bogged down in protecting his own reputation and that of his fellow DL "brothers." Interesting c I saw this guy on Oprah years ago, so when I saw this book at the library I decided to see what he had to say. I had the impression during the interview that he was 1. a bit full of himself and 2. a bit in denial. I had those same impressions reading this book. It seems that he realizes a bit of that between this and his next book. I think he has an important health message to deliver, but he gets too bogged down in protecting his own reputation and that of his fellow DL "brothers." Interesting cultural phenomenon to be aware of, but poorly told.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    Get over it. Guys like this need to just come out to the closet and use condoms. Everyone will be a lot better off once they get with that program.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Yuki

    To all the women who reads this book WARNING: You have to be strong within yourself before reading this book. This is an excellent book to read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Wade

    Interesting and important topic but some of the ideas and suggestions are extremely outdated and bordering on biphobia/homophobia

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This book is making me paranoid that every single black man I know is fucking every single other black man they come across (except of course, for gay ones), but it's written from the point of view of a black gay/bisexual nymphomaniac (or whatever the equivalent male term is for nymphomaniac). This book is written at a pretty low grade level, such that you'd almost expect to see it as a sex-ed tome in urban black schools. Middle-school level, I'd say. It's ostensibly about how black women are get This book is making me paranoid that every single black man I know is fucking every single other black man they come across (except of course, for gay ones), but it's written from the point of view of a black gay/bisexual nymphomaniac (or whatever the equivalent male term is for nymphomaniac). This book is written at a pretty low grade level, such that you'd almost expect to see it as a sex-ed tome in urban black schools. Middle-school level, I'd say. It's ostensibly about how black women are getting widely infected with HIV because their male partners are all having unprotected casual male-to-male sex. But, you know, no mention of the male partners' increasing rates of HIV infection, because they never bother to find out their HIV status unless their wives/babymamas turn up HIV-positive. The author of this book has totally wacked-out logic (or as he says, "is tripping). He fucks men all the time but is not gay, because: 1) you're not gay if you have sex with women 2) you're not gay if you're the penetrator ("top") 3) you're not gay if you receive oral sex from a man 4) you're not gay if you occasionally experiment with performing oral sex or being the "bottom" 5) you're not gay or even responsible for your actions when you're fucking another man, because it's like you're "possessed" or "having an out of body experience" 6) you're not gay if you don't use a condom with another man, because using a condom with another man implies premeditation, as opposed to blaming the booze or the heat of the moment Basically, in the black community, it's really bad to be gay, but it's totally ok to have random unprotected sexual encounters with strange men. It's even better if you use homosexual slurs towards out black guys. He calls others out for being in denial, but seems to be totally in denial himself. The author basically confesses that he'll stick his dick into anything that is black, alive, and has two legs (legs are negotiable), and of course he doesn't bother with condoms. Also, tons of other black men do the same thing. No guesses as to percentages, though he seems to think it's far higher than the number of out homosexual males. Also, he doesn't seem to think that promiscuity in general is a problem, just the secret promiscuity of black men sleeping with each other all over the place, but that the cure is for women not to be promiscuous and to use condoms. In other words, let your husband/boyfriend stick his dick everywhere but make him glove it up when he comes into your bed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ozimandias

    This book has some potentially impotant information in it. But I found it to be a cheap book with a lot of generalizations and denials. The author was a DL brother, but he has changed his ways. He doesn't really elaborate on his life now, but he really seemed to have a lot of internalized homophobia and self-hatred. Instead of really delving into his own life experiences, beyond a cursory discussion of how he ruined his family's life, he gives us short discussions of other people's DL experience This book has some potentially impotant information in it. But I found it to be a cheap book with a lot of generalizations and denials. The author was a DL brother, but he has changed his ways. He doesn't really elaborate on his life now, but he really seemed to have a lot of internalized homophobia and self-hatred. Instead of really delving into his own life experiences, beyond a cursory discussion of how he ruined his family's life, he gives us short discussions of other people's DL experiences. I got his message of protecting yourself from HIV/AIDS very early on, but that seemed to be his only goal. He set the bar very low for himself with this book; so instead of a book with a lot of compelling information about this lifestyle, we get a long HIV/AIDS pamphlet. I wished it were better.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    No surprise this is a one star. Certain friends of mine mocked me for reading this book. This is one of those books I heard about on Oprah or something and I figured I would read it. What really made me pick it up this time and read it was that it is short. It was a fast read, but poorly written and totally repetitive. And the icky factor was pretty overwhelming. These guys he writes about are the smarmiest sneaks. Anyway, there is my review Jenna. Wanna read it now?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donnie Wilson

    My only hope for this book is that it bring to light what so many of us sisters who feel we are unworthy of true and real love, to ask questions and really, truly want the answers we seek. Well written and I applaud the brother for exposing the truth.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    This book was very informative. An eye opener! Would def. recommend this book especially if you date black men.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff hackworth

    This book blew me away!!!!!! I'm not against gay relationships but was overthrown by the game these men play with life and other people. This book blew me away!!!!!! I'm not against gay relationships but was overthrown by the game these men play with life and other people.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tamela

    Sad

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mack

    A great read! I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite topics to discuss with like-minded people.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jay DeMoir

    This read like a bipolar episode. This man was so hypocritical of people who are JUST like him! Not only that, but he also seemed to be delusional about his own hang-ups, lies, and scheming. 🤢🤢 This read like a bipolar episode. This man was so hypocritical of people who are JUST like him! Not only that, but he also seemed to be delusional about his own hang-ups, lies, and scheming. 🤢🤢

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cool Readings (Book Club)

    When author J.L. King told Oprah he wasn't gay back in 2004, he CLAIMS he wasn't lying and CLAIMS he was in denial. "I knew I was living a lie," he says "I would do all I could to change who I was. I had girlfriends on the side, I had women, and I would always deny who I was. However, I believe he was just plain lying. After having read Mr. King's book and discussing it during our book club meeting, it was quite apparent to us that he was not in denial but just living a life of lies. Throughout t When author J.L. King told Oprah he wasn't gay back in 2004, he CLAIMS he wasn't lying and CLAIMS he was in denial. "I knew I was living a lie," he says "I would do all I could to change who I was. I had girlfriends on the side, I had women, and I would always deny who I was. However, I believe he was just plain lying. After having read Mr. King's book and discussing it during our book club meeting, it was quite apparent to us that he was not in denial but just living a life of lies. Throughout the book he repeatedly mentions his overly attraction for men, about "checking out brothas," about "going to get to-gethers with his girlfriends and checking out their uncles and cousins," but never once did he mention any real attraction for women. Based on having read all of that, it is quite clear to me that he was/is in fact gay and only used women including his wife Brenda as a cover up. I was quite taken back and appalled by the things revealed in this book to me as a reader. Although down low "brothas" have been around for many decades, they have never been talked about in such an open manner as this. This book forces you to read and witness lies and the risks that are involved with such a lifestyle. Although I find the quality of the writing and editing to be very poor, I must applaud Mr. King's efforts on enlightening us of the sorts of acts which these so-called "straight" men get up to when they're together behind closed doors with each other. As J.L. King so firmly says, "we're not in the closet, we're behind the closet."

  19. 5 out of 5

    The Urban Book Source

    J.L. King hit the head on the nail with his freshman novel. Although down low brothers is nothing new to our community, they have never been talked about in as open a manner as this. On the Down Low lets you crawl into the life of a creeping man and witness the lies, deception and risk that are involved with such a lifestyle. In a deeply rooted homophobic community, many will shun this book. I applaud Mr. King's efforts. With HIV and AIDS running rampant in our community and DL brothers playing J.L. King hit the head on the nail with his freshman novel. Although down low brothers is nothing new to our community, they have never been talked about in as open a manner as this. On the Down Low lets you crawl into the life of a creeping man and witness the lies, deception and risk that are involved with such a lifestyle. In a deeply rooted homophobic community, many will shun this book. I applaud Mr. King's efforts. With HIV and AIDS running rampant in our community and DL brothers playing a role in an outrageous rate of infection for young black women, I think this book is more than worth the read. Although this text is heavily based on Mr. Kings own experience and some have complained about the quality of writing, I say give this book a chance. Don't focus on the writing, focus on the facts! 1. What did you like best about this book? I liked that the author took a risk and exposed a topic that was rarely discussed in the open before this book. 2. What did you dislike about this book? I didn’t like that the main basis of this book surrounded the author’s personal life. I feel that left air for the material to be biased and questionable. 3. How can the author improve this book? I think Mr. King should try to tighten and reign in his writing style.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Durham

    If you are looking for a quick read and one that gives a first hand lives into this lifestyle...this is your read. The author does a decent job coming clean and attempting to navigate this maze. He seems to have come to grips with the fact that his desires have placed a # of individuals in harm's way. There is a chapter in the book that lays out signs to pay attention to as well as a Q and A section. Two things really stood out for me: 1. He is still concerned about the relationship that he had w If you are looking for a quick read and one that gives a first hand lives into this lifestyle...this is your read. The author does a decent job coming clean and attempting to navigate this maze. He seems to have come to grips with the fact that his desires have placed a # of individuals in harm's way. There is a chapter in the book that lays out signs to pay attention to as well as a Q and A section. Two things really stood out for me: 1. He is still concerned about the relationship that he had with his ex- wife. He seems genuinely hurt that there are some parts of her that are still battling with the past, his revelation and lifestyle and her ability to fully trust again and 2. His daughter and the ones that may come calling when dating begins...concerned that they may not be who they say they are. This book dispelled myths and misconceptions for me. Likewise, in a # of ways...it left much more to be said!

  21. 4 out of 5

    dejah_thoris

    I finished this last week. Impressive work discussing one of the biggest sexual secrets in America today. Although written from an African American perspective, many of the characteristics of brothers on the down low also apply to married white bisexual men as well. King acknowledges this similarity towards the end of the book but focuses more on protecting his sisters in ignorance by enlightening them to the possibility of these relationships as fairly common. I truly cannot find fault with his I finished this last week. Impressive work discussing one of the biggest sexual secrets in America today. Although written from an African American perspective, many of the characteristics of brothers on the down low also apply to married white bisexual men as well. King acknowledges this similarity towards the end of the book but focuses more on protecting his sisters in ignorance by enlightening them to the possibility of these relationships as fairly common. I truly cannot find fault with his educational purpose though it would be good to push the fringe of these groups. Do these brothers sometimes have sex with white men? Where do they find them? Are white married bisexual men more or less likely to use protection than black men?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    Hate hate hate this book. The reason why I read this book is that the author was scheduled as a guest speaker on a cruise I was going on. The book did not impress me. It seemed to me that the only reason he came out was that he was caught and that he was still in denial about who he is. After listening to him, I still hate this book. He did made some very good points on the subject of AIDS and HIV. It is great that he open some women eyes to the whole DL thing however, his denial of whom and wha Hate hate hate this book. The reason why I read this book is that the author was scheduled as a guest speaker on a cruise I was going on. The book did not impress me. It seemed to me that the only reason he came out was that he was caught and that he was still in denial about who he is. After listening to him, I still hate this book. He did made some very good points on the subject of AIDS and HIV. It is great that he open some women eyes to the whole DL thing however, his denial of whom and what he is killed it for me. I found nothing likable about him.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Adrienna

    I wanted to know what was the DL. I hear that some men who are DL are gay men trying to live lives as if they are straight men since it will not accepted in society, in their families, or for religious beliefs. It seems hard to believe based on his title that straight men will sleep with me, I think it is that they have gay insincts and try to live a normal life as pretending to be straight and finally venture out. Also, used the book for research purposes for one of my upcoming books.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Billione

    This book was poorly written but has information unavailable anyplace else. As more books about this subject emerge, this book will be considered unuseful. Also, it paints the DL as a Blach phenomenon and it is not. Men have been sleeping with men behind their female interests since the beginning of time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I found much of the book disturbing! Wow it really makes you think and has made me want to warn and have the conversation with my two daughters about this behavior among our black males, so they are better equipped to protect themselves and are simply educated about what is out there. I'm still shaking my head after an hour after reading this. I found much of the book disturbing! Wow it really makes you think and has made me want to warn and have the conversation with my two daughters about this behavior among our black males, so they are better equipped to protect themselves and are simply educated about what is out there. I'm still shaking my head after an hour after reading this.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This book was VERY eye opening! Interesting in that voyeristic kind of way! Unfortunately though, he falls on the "love of God" in the end..we should all be understanding...his family should forgive him...blah blah blah This book was VERY eye opening! Interesting in that voyeristic kind of way! Unfortunately though, he falls on the "love of God" in the end..we should all be understanding...his family should forgive him...blah blah blah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Parkins

    *edited review because initial one looked so embarrassing on my profile* Essentially I found the book unappealing and out of my comfort zone

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Every African American Woman should read this one...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    I read the book. I gave it a five star because I learned a lot from the book, even though I don't agree with some of the things he said. I believe every woman should read this book. I read the book. I gave it a five star because I learned a lot from the book, even though I don't agree with some of the things he said. I believe every woman should read this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marie-Ange Janvier

    Wow! This book is a whole eye opener into men that can be married or have a girlfriend while still having sexual encounters in secret with men. They are not gay because they still love sexual relationships with women. They are bisexual under cover because they can’t expose their interest of sexual relationships with the same sex male because they will lose everything in their reputation, family, respect and life. While this book focused solely on the Black community, you can find it in every rac Wow! This book is a whole eye opener into men that can be married or have a girlfriend while still having sexual encounters in secret with men. They are not gay because they still love sexual relationships with women. They are bisexual under cover because they can’t expose their interest of sexual relationships with the same sex male because they will lose everything in their reputation, family, respect and life. While this book focused solely on the Black community, you can find it in every race communities. Also while this was about men sleeping with men solely, you can find it with women sleeping with women too. This book particularly was a wake up call written for black women specifically as the spread of HIV/ AIDS is more rampant in the USA. It’s to give us a warning as to what could contribute to the spread as there are some DL ( down low) brothers who are having unprotected sex with other male who are strangers.

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