The phenomenon known as the “down low” has received some well deserved attention in recent weeks. Television spots and articles are highlighting the publication of Joy Marie’s book The Straight-Up Truth About the Down-Low: Women Share Their Stories of Betrayal, Pain and Survival. This book is a supportive resource for women whose husbands and partners are having sex on the down low- acting as heterosexuals by day but having sex with men at night. It is a very personal and thorough discussion of a painful experience that is not spoken of too often. On her website, readers share their stories. They are sadly familiar to anyone who has networked with a support group.
Recently, Joy appeared on Fox’s The Mike and Juliet Morning Show with Lisa Durden – director of the movie “PROJECT WOW: Men On The Down Low“, Dr Monica Sweeney, the assistant commissioner of the bureau of HIV prevention and control, and Terrance Dean, author of Hiding in Hip Hop. A video clip of the program can be seen here in two parts.
Something that all straight spouses can identify with is the emphasis on deception which Joy brought to the program. When Terrence Dean was describing his experiences with men as being loving, Joy made sure that the entire truth of what sex on the down low often means. She said “Stop with the loving, having protected sex – you guys are having sex in restrooms, public rest rooms, in parks, mall rest rooms, and then you come home to your “loving wife”.” Terrence correctly responded that individuals are responsible for their own behavior – and then he told Joy that women should take responsibility for safe sex as well. “I should use a condom in my marriage? No, YOU should not deceive and betray innocent, unsuspecting women”, Joy responded to applause. The other experts on the program said that a woman should have sex with a condom in marriage – because contrary to the story Terrance was telling, down low men do not use condoms when having sex with other men, so as to not face the reality that they are “gay”.
The program concluded with the introduction of LaJoyce Brookshire, bestselling author Soul Food and now her personal story, Faith Under Fire, who told of being married to a man on the downlow who is now dead from AIDS. She did not know when she married him that his first wife had died of AIDS as well. She too recounted a description familiar to many straight wives, of marriage to a homophobic, verbally abusive, deeply disturbed man. LaJoyce said to always ask questions, which she did not ask her husband, about his previous experience.
The conversation about the down low as it pertains to women is mostly about AIDS which is the number 1 killer of African American women between the ages of 25 and 34. The down low certainly contributes to this statistic. What is often NOT discussed is the emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and social toll on the heterosexual woman as well as the risk for AIDS.
We give a great big shout out to Joy and LaJoyce for telling their stories and encouraging others to share theirs.