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Down-low is an African American slang term  that typically refers to a subculture of Black men who usually identify as heterosexual, but who have sex with men ; some avoid sharing this information even if they have female sexual partner s , they are married, or they are single.
The term originated in the Black community, and was originally used to describe "any kind of slick, secretive behavior, including infidelity in heterosexual relationships". According to a study published in the Journal of Bisexuality , "[t]he Down Low is a lifestyle predominately practiced by young, urban Black men who have sex with other men and women, yet do not identify as gay or bisexual". In this context, "being on the Down Low" is more than just men having sex with men in secret, or a variant of closeted homosexuality or bisexuality—it is a sexual identity that is, at least partly, defined by its "cult of masculinity" and its rejection of what is perceived as white culture including white LGBT culture and terms.
Rejecting a gay culture they perceive as white and effeminate, many black men have settled on a new identity, with its own vocabulary and customs and its own name: Down Low. There have always been men — black and white — who have had secret sexual lives with men. But the creation of an organized, underground subculture largely made up of black men who otherwise live straight lives is a phenomenon of the last decade.
Most date or marry women and engage sexually with men they meet only in anonymous settings like bathhouses and parks or through the Internet. Many of these men are young and from the inner city, where they live in a hypermasculine thug culture.
Other DL men form romantic relationships with men and may even be peripheral participants in mainstream gay culture, all unknown to their colleagues and families. Most DL men identify themselves not as gay or bisexual but first and foremost as black. To them, as to many blacks, that equates to being inherently masculine. In his book Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies and Denial in Black America , Keith Boykin states that secret homosexual relations are not unique to African American men, and in fact occur in many societies and among all races. In "Power Plays, Power Works" John Fiske suggests that closeted homosexuality may be more common in American communities suffering from widespread poverty, in which members reportedly depend heavily on traditional family networks and often religious institutions for financial and emotional support.
The term quickly became conflated with an eroticism of Black and Latino homosexual activity. Throughout the gay porn industry and internet networks, "down-low" quickly became a marketing term used to publicize pornographic movies, models, sex-clubs and social gatherings that included Black and Latino men. The first known person to use "down-low" in a homosexual context was George Hanna, who used the term in the song Boy in the Boat about lesbian women.
The first mainstream media of the down-low as closeted homosexuality was reported in the Los Angeles Times on February 7, By the end of the year, numerous major media outlets had reported on the down-low. The article was the first mainstream piece to openly criticize negative mainstream media depictions of down-low men and put a different spin on the DL phenomenon. King argued that the use of the term "down low" was a way for many African American men to admit to having sex with other men without necessarily identifying as "gay" in the traditional sense.
In Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr. In addition, McCune has dedicated a dissertation on this topic. His study examines DL discourses closely, while also exploring how DL men handle masculinity and sexuality. In , writer Terrance Dean published his memoir, Hiding in Hip-Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry—from Music to Hollywood , where he discusses his own experience being down-low in the industry as well as others in the industry who are also down-low.
He distinguishes the difference between being down-low and being down-low-gay. Someone who is down-low is on the receiving end of homosexual sexual pleasure and for that reason does not view themselves as gay, while down-low-gay is someone who is a closeted gay man. Using a content analysis of more than articles written between and , sociologist Richard N. Pitt, Jr. He argued that the "down-low" Black bisexual is often described negatively as a duplicitous heterosexual man whose behaviors threaten the Black community.
Alternatively, the "Brokeback" white bisexual when seen as bisexual at all is often described in pitying language as a victimized homosexual man who is forced into the closet by the heterosexist society around him. And more than one in four of these bisexual men have unsafe sex with both kinds of partners. The CDC report that analyzes the above-mentioned survey states that "many men who have sex with men MSM , especially young and minority MSM, do not disclose their sexual orientation" in order to avoid "social isolation, discrimination, or verbal or physical abuse.
Although this study did not find that nondisclosing MSM were at higher risk for HIV infection than MSM who are more open about their sexuality 1—3 , the data suggests that a substantial proportion of nondisclosers are infected with HIV and other STDs and are at high risk for transmitting these infections to their male and female sex partners. In Beyond the Down Low , Keith Boykin denied this connection, attributing the media claim to sexism , racism, homophobia and classism.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never cited men on the down-low as a factor. The authors of a study of the down-low on Craigslist. The authors maintain that by only focusing on Black people's sexual behaviors, larger structural issues such as poverty and drug use are ignored in the discussion about rising HIV rates in certain Black communities.
A cross-study analysis that reviewed 24 articles and published in the Journal of the National Medical Association found that "Black MSM are more likely than MSM of other racial or ethnic groups to be bisexually active or identified; and, compared with white MSM, are less likely to disclose their bisexual or homosexual activities to others. However, the contribution of high-risk heterosexual Black men to the rising HIV caseload among Black women has been largely ignored.
Future research must evaluate the relative contributions of bisexual men and exclusively heterosexual Black men to HIV cases among Black women. Additionally, a qualitative study, published in the Medical Anthropological Quarterly, concluded that:.
It was concluded that bisexual activity is highly correlated with secrecy and unprotected sex. The risks of bisexuality among Black men are exacerbated by incarceration, homophobia, drug use, and the prison and public health focus on surveillance rather than prevention. Riley Snorton contends that Black sexuality operates within the glass closet, a space "marked by hypervisibility and confinement, spectacle, and speculation. This type of hypervisibility reinforces the confining space of the glass closet, and continues to position Black men as subjects of regulation and surveillance.
Therefore Black masculinity is perceived as "dangerous, prone to trickery, promiscuous, and contaminated while also framing white masculinity and sexuality as less susceptible to such problems. Down-low men are racialized, sexualized, gendered, and classed. The meta physics of the glass closet are like the physical properties of glass, sometimes liquid and sometimes solid, located in the slips of categorization.
If we understand the closet as a racialized metaphor, then we must fully consider what it means when Black bodies enter the illuminating space of the closet. It resembles the phenomenon of peering into a lit window at night—the contents inside captured by the glass frame.
Despite the hypervisibility of the glass closet, there is still potential for the performative tactic which Snorton calls "ignorance". This ignorance "relies on the subversion of knowledge and a deft manipulation of spectacle. For other uses, see Down-low disambiguation. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. Sterling Publishing. ISBN Retrieved Three Rivers Press. Archived from the original on August 18, San Francisco Chronicle. Progressive Black Masculinities. AIDS and Behavior. PMID S2CID Racial identity, masculinity and homosexuality in the lives of young Black men who have sex with men: Implications for HIV risk Thesis.
ProQuest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Archived from the original on Journal of Bisexuality. The New York Times. The Village Voice. August 16, Archived from the original on March 7, Power Plays, Power Works. Blackness and Sexualities. June , www. July 23, , www. Harpo Inc. April 16, Mccune Jr. Blacktino Queer Performance. Retrieved April 22, ISSN X. The Journal of Men's Studies. Cities, —". February 7, Archived from the original on October 5, Deviant Behavior.
Journal of the National Medical Association. PMC Medical Anthropology Quarterly. JSTOR Riley Nobody Is Supposed to Know. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Down low LGBT hip hop. Lesbian , gay , bisexual , and transgender LGBT slang. Sexual slang. List of films that most frequently use the word "fuck".
Human sexuality Sexology Sexual slur Terminology of homosexuality. Hidden : Webarchive template wayback links. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Learn to edit Community portal Recent changes file. Download as PDF Printable version. Add links. Look up down low in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.Hung blk freak for the sexy women
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