Beyond the Down Low: Sex and Denial and Black America

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Bolstered by national television exposure on Oprah and a cover story in the New York Times Magazine, the "down low"-a term used to refer to "straight" men who have sex with men-was thrust into the open in 2004. Keith Boykin, a former Clinton White House aide, goes beyond the hype with the first responsible, eye-opening look at the down low sensation. Unlike all previous accounts on the topic, Beyond the Down Low presents the DL not merely as a problem of gay and bisexual men living in the shadows, but more as an ...
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Overview

Bolstered by national television exposure on Oprah and a cover story in the New York Times Magazine, the "down low"-a term used to refer to "straight" men who have sex with men-was thrust into the open in 2004. Keith Boykin, a former Clinton White House aide, goes beyond the hype with the first responsible, eye-opening look at the down low sensation. Unlike all previous accounts on the topic, Beyond the Down Low presents the DL not merely as a problem of gay and bisexual men living in the shadows, but more as an example of America's unwillingness to engage in critical but uncomfortable conversations about black sexuality. Boykin details how society has helped to create an environment where black gay and bisexual men feel compelled to lead double lives. Meanwhile, the dialogue that has taken place in the black community encourages an unhealthy battle of the sexes, ignores the complexity of the closet, demonizes bisexuality, disempowers women, and misdirects public resources and attention. This book is a timely and well researched answer to the question, "Why are so many black men on the DL?" More importantly, it is an essential tool to pry open the closet door in black America.
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Editorial Reviews

Tricia Rose
Boykin adds a great deal of balance to a debate that has been aflame for years. It is impossible to come away from this book without a greater appreciation for the humanity of black men generally and for those who -- because of shame, fear and stigma -- act in unethical ways that may have grave consequences for their partners. This is a crucial step toward breaking the silences and false expectations about sexuality and race that have us all imprisoned.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In the past year, J.L. King's On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men Who Sleep with Men, a New York Times Magazine piece and Oprah attention helped make a cultural phenomenon out of life "on the DL." Here, writer and activist Boykin (One More River to Cross) addresses what he sees as the implicitly racist and homophobic undertones of the media's coverage. He offers a point-by-point refutation of King's take on the DL-King's book, Boykin says, suffers from overgeneralizations, inconsistencies and distortions-and accuses King of serving up another "stereotypical image of black men as pathological liars, surreptitiously satisfying their primitive sexual cravings by cheating on their wives." But the heart of Boykin's argument is that the media, which often blame closeted black men for transmitting HIV to their female partners, are avoiding the opportunity to responsibly discuss the realities of sexuality, gender, race and AIDS. Boykin lucidly draws on science as well as personal experience in this important book. And while many of the cultural manifestations of black sexuality that Boykin documents here are fascinating-e.g., references to the DL (which Boykin defines as cheating on a partner regardless of one's sexuality) in popular music-the power of his book comes from his impassioned call to examine the real facts of sexual behavior and HIV transmission. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The term down low refers to straight men having sex with men, a pseudo-phenomenon that has become common knowledge in the past few years, high-profile media outlets having seized on it because of its high titillation factor. One reason for such frenzy is concern that HIV is being transmitted heterosexually. Boykin, an Ivy League-educated journalist/commentator and former White House aide, thankfully applies reason to this controversy. The result is both personal memoir and thorough analysis. This issue has special significance for the African American community, and Boykin discusses the role of sexuality in that community with a rare frankness. Taking on an investigator's role, he dismantles the hyperbole usually attending such matters. Most readers will also appreciate the honesty with which Boykin describes his own life. All these factors make for a riveting read that deserves the widest audience.-David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786714346
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/9/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 A thousand different meanings 1
Ch. 2 Since the beginning of time 23
Ch. 3 Everybody's doing it 39
Ch. 4 It's not just a Black thing 61
Ch. 5 When a disease becomes an excuse 75
Ch. 6 Down low detectives 113
Ch. 7 Victims and villains 147
Ch. 8 Seven deadly lies and other myths 163
Ch. 9 Never underestimate the power of a woman 175
Ch. 10 Black men : married, in jail, or gay? 197
Ch. 11 Homothugs, helmets and hip hop 219
Ch. 12 Let's talk about sex 239
Ch. 13 Can I get a witness? 255
Ch. 14 Sick and tired of being sick and tired 269
Ch. 15 Love and fear 285
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    I recommend Beyond the Down Low...

    I love books that deal with the "DOWN LOW" topic!!!

    This is definitely worth reading!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2005

    Beyond The Hysteria

    Author Keith Boykin has come up with a credible and sensible discourse that addresses the new hysteria over a cultural norm that is as old as culture itself. The recent media hype over black men on the down low has once again found a commercial way to heighten fear and loathing of the black man in America, this time with a new psychological twist on the old black-on-black crime scenario. Before Boykin¿s calming low down on the down low scare, money-making misinformation once again pitted black women against black men, black straights against black gays, and the black church against itself. In ¿Beyond The Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America¿ Boykin quickly dispels the myth that the down low is an exclusive `pathology¿ of African American men who secretly have sex with men while also having sex with women. Though some may debate the morality of homosexuality and bisexuality, their existence throughout time are well documented, as is infidelity, none of which, the author points out, are exclusive to any one race, nationality, and/or gender. Having gotten this rather simplistic but often ignored point out of the way, Boykin goes for solutions by first challenging the `clockability¿ of men on the so-called down low. His book lives up to its title by going beyond the blame game and calling upon those in the black community to share in the responsibilities of healing and ultimately uniting a house so many are hell-bent on dividing. He reminds us of the indomitable strength of the black woman, a power some would neutralize by reducing her to a helpless victim. He reminds us of the against-all-odds power of the black man in an America that skews statistics and media crucifies for self-serving perception. Still, he does not let the black community off the hook, hastening us toward responsibilities we are divinely obligated to assume collectively and individually. His advice is tough, sound, and user-friendly. Finally, Boykin reminds us that in this fight for our lives, the enemy is not the black man, is not the black woman, is not the black church, and is not the down low. The enemy is beyond the down low. The enemy is AIDS, abetted by denial, ignorance, bigotry, and hysteria.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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