Thursday, Sep 21st

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Black Women On the Down Low

BlackCouple

For many, the increasingly familiar term, “Down Low” conjures an image of a married Black man who dabbles sexually with other men, his wife unsuspecting.  In recent years, countless magazines, blogs, radio shows and other media outlets have discussed the supposed phenomenon ad nauseam.   In 2004, even The Oprah Winfrey Show introduced millions of viewers to the controversial lifestyle, disclosing the details of what then was a little known happening.  For some time, It seemed that Black men on the Down Low was a wildly spreading plague, and every Black woman was being warned to watch for the symptoms lest her household become infected. Contrary to how it has been played out in the media, the Down Low is not exclusive to Black men.

From the outside looking in, she is living the so-called Black American Dream: power career, doting husband, and 2.3 kids.  She has it all---including a girlfriend, unbeknownst to her husband.  On the surface this contradiction may sound far-fetched.  But consider the ever-present discomfort in the Black community on all things gay and maybe this scenario shouldn’t be so hard to fathom.  Throw in the heavy influence the Black church has in defining gender roles, and a gay or bi-sexual Black woman may find herself “trapped” in the traditional definition of Wife, but choosing to  pursue secret sexual relationships with other women. Proposition 8, the amendment that would eliminate same-sex marriage in California, and the relatively high percentage of Blacks that voted for the bill  further drives the point home that the Black community doesn't take kindly to the traditional definition of marriage being challenged.

In sharp contrast, the mighty media is working overtime to shape how society perceives Black women and their sexuality.  Once associated only with inebriated White Girls Gone Wild, a sliding scale of sexuality for Black women has become more acceptable and even glamorized by many outlets.  Music videos, fashion magazines and Hollywood all send the message that there is no closet to come out from.  “Straight” women who dabble are not gay, they’re not even bi-sexual.  They’re just adventurous, sexy even.  With this barrage of mixed messages, is it really surprising that some Black women are choosing to play both sides of the fence?

Although Black women on the Down Low is the apparent latest headline, the real story is the age-old tale of Black men and women choosing deceit over the risk of being stigmatized and ostracized for their sexuality.  Until the Black community refuses to allow one entity or the next to define sexuality, marriage and its respective roles, the painful and deceptivel world of the Down Low will continue to flourish.


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