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On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men who Sleep with Men.

On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men who Sleep with Men

by J. L. King

Broadway Books. 208 pages, $21.95

Pausing to put a condom on is not something closeted black men living on the "down low" (DL) do, according to many of the men interviewed by the author, because they only "get with" men they meet at the gym, or perhaps at church, men like themselves, who lead "normal, straight lives." King volleys these and other observations directly at African-American women, with a firm reminder that they should not succumb to the intense pressure society puts on them to get and keep a man. Drawing from his own life experiences--his wife caught him having an affair with a man from their church--as well as from hundreds of interviews, meetings, and panels led by the author, King reveals that men living on the DL do not consider themselves gay; in fact, many have passionate, fulfilling relationships with their wives or girlfriends. This is especially alarming in that these men rarely practice safe sex when indulging in a little "somethin'." "To put on a condom is to think about what you are doing," explains King. "It stops it from being a thoughtless, lustful act that they have no control over. If you wear a condom, it couldn't be the liquor that made you have sex with another man." King offers can-did tips on how to spot DL flirting behavior, views on why some masculine men actually prefer the bottom (passive) role during gay sex, and a description of the distinguishing characteristics of the five DL "behavior types" (mature brother, thug brother, professional brother, I have a wife/girlfriend brother, and the I'm just curious brother). The writing, generously flecked with everyday urban vernacular (every black woman is referred to as a "sister," every black man, a "brother") is at times repetitive, but ultimately King's street-wise, older-brother persona provides a comfortable way to couch this sensitive, complex subject matter.
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Title Annotation:Briefs
Author:Peregrin, Tony
Publication:The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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