August 2, 2010
Professor Dr. Kristen Cole
San Diego City College
“down low” in African-American and Caucasian Communities
The usage of “down low” can have various definitions such as a heterosexual male having an affair with another woman, or keeping one’s business to his self. “The acronym DL means keep secret or hidden for teenagers in the United States, and for African Americans means in a clandestine, or sneaky manner. Adjective related to the noun low down, which means privileged information, or intimate details.” (qtd. in Gonzalez pg. 29) “Down low noun meaning information, explanation, events used as in “what the down low?” or “let me in on the down low.” (qtd. In Gonzalez pg. 29) “Down low can also relate to the noun low down the facts and the synonym the haps, things that are happening.” (Gonzalez 29)
However, today within the African American community it is the connotation described in “Paul Baker’s Fantabulosa: a Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang published in London defines DL as the initials of down low and an adjective slang referring to Black men who appear heterosexual in public, but have gay sex.” (qtd. Gonzalez pg. 29) Because of the fact “down low” carries so many different definitions up until 2008 people just thought of the male as being secretive or being in control of his business and not allowing anyone to know just what he was doing. (Sandfort & Dodge 2008, pg 676) The not allowing anyone to know what he was doing is a very true statement.
The African American community adopted the term in the 1990’s. Found in research “It has been suggested that ethnic minority men see the gay culture in the United States as a White, and sometimes also as a “feminine,” phenomenon, which is difficult for them to identify with.” (Sandfort & Dodge 2008, pg 677) When a man is on the down low, he believes having sexual intercourse with a male is not a homosexual act because he also continues to have sexual relations with women. This also is bisexuality there are no differences in the sexual relations of a man on the down low, gay, and bisexual. The difference is a black male cannot say he likes sleeping with men and not be considered gay or bisexual. This is due to the masculinity factors and values of the African American community, which looks upon being gay as a crime against their culture. Therefore, the African American community has pinned “down low.”
Due to the publishing of “Down Low” Men with wives and girlfriends secretly having sex with other men, by J. L. King the down low slogan became widely used. Up until the publishing of the novel, no one ever suspected that African American males were indulging in such act unless they were gay or bisexual. This is considered “an organized, underground subculture largely made up of Black men who otherwise live straight lives” (Sandfort & Dodge 2008, pg 676) For an African American to be on the “down low” is another disappointment for the African American female. Not only do the African American females find it hard to date African American men that have substance such education and a good paying job; but also now, the male wants to have both men and women sexually without informing her of his choices. For men that are incarcerated this considered; “situational homosexuality that occurs because of a lack of heterosexual partners” (Carroll pg 304)
Not only do women in the African American community have the worries of HIV and AIDS but the Latino community as well. The fact that each of the males within the two communities keeps their sexual escapades secret; the women within their communities have a higher rate of HIV and AIDS.
When you look at the term “down low,” it has been around since the beginning of time, it has been practiced among men within all cultures, but only within the African American community has it been termed as such and only used for men of color.
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