Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 675–682 | Cite as

“...And Then There was the Down Low”: Introduction to Black and Latino Male Bisexualities

  • Theo G. M. Sandfort
  • Brian Dodge


Although a recent proliferation of mass media has drawn attention to “the new Down Low phenomenon” (presumably “secretive” homosexuality among married Black men), relatively little research has explored bisexual behavior and identity among ethnic minority men in the United States or elsewhere. Although the study of bisexuality in Black and Latino men is significant in its own right, disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS among these men make the current dearth of scientific information even more urgent and concerning. In this special section, we have compiled a diverse array of empirical and theoretical perspectives on Black and Latino male bisexualities. A wide range of information on the individual, social, and sexual lives of these men, and potential relations to risk behavior, are presented. This article introduces this new body of work and offers suggestions for future research directions for culturally appropriate interventions for Black and Latino bisexual men.


Bisexuality Black Latino Men Down low HIV/AIDS 



First and foremost, we would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Editor for his assistance and support throughout the course of this project. Indeed, this special section would not have come to fruition without him. Several contributors to this special section (Dodge, Jeffries, Malebranche, Muñoz-Laboy, Padilla, and Sandfort) originally presented their associated work in an invited scientific session, “Black and Latino Male Bisexuality and HIV/AIDS: Gender, Context, and Culture,” at the 134th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in Boston, MA, on November 7, 2006. These individuals would like to thank Drs. Michael Reece and Scott Rhodes (APHA HIV/AIDS Program Co-Chairs) for their roles in arranging and facilitating this special event. Support for writing this paper was provided by National Institute of Mental Health grant P30 MH43520 to the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies (PI: Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt).


  1. Aggleton P. (Ed.). (1996). Bisexualities and AIDS: International perspectives. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychological Association. (2004). Guidelines for psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  3. Angelides, S. (2001). A history of bisexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bergler, E. (1956). Homosexuality: Disease or way of life. New York: Collier.Google Scholar
  5. Bisexual chic: Anyone goes. (1974, May 27). Newsweek, p. 83.Google Scholar
  6. Boykin, K. (2004). Beyond the down low: Sex, lies, and denial in Black America. New York: Carroll & Graf.Google Scholar
  7. Brooks, R., Rotheram-Borus, M. J., Bing, E. C., Ayala, G., & Henry, C. L. (2003). HIV and AIDS among men of color who have sex with men and men of color who have sex with men and women: An epidemiological profile. AIDS Education and Prevention, 15, 1S–6S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Browder, B. S., & Hunter, K. (2005). On the up and up: A survival guide for women living with men on the down low. New York: Dafina Books.Google Scholar
  9. Cantarella, E. (2002). Bisexuality in the ancient world (2nd ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Carrier, J. M. (1985). Mexican male bisexuality. Journal of Homosexuality, 11(1/2), 75–85.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Twenty-five years of HIV/AIDS–United States, 1981–2006. Monthly Morbidity & Mortality Report, 55, 585–589.Google Scholar
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Estimated numbers of cases and rates (per 100,000 population) of HIV/AIDS, by race/ethnicity, age category, and sex, 2005–33 states with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting. HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 17(revised ed.).Google Scholar
  13. Chakrapani, V., Newman, P. A., Shunmugam, M., McLuckie, A., & Melwin, F. (2007). Structural violence against Kothi-identified men who have sex with men in Chennai, India: A qualitative investigation. AIDS Education and Prevention, 15, 347–366.Google Scholar
  14. De Moya, A., & Garcia, A. (1996). AIDS and the enigma of bisexuality in the Dominican Republic. In P. Aggleton (Ed.), Bisexualities and AIDS: International perspectives (pp. 121–135). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  15. Denizet-Lewis, B. (2003, August 3). Down low: Double lives, AIDS, and the black homosexual underground. New York Times Magazine, 8–53.Google Scholar
  16. Dodge, B., & Sandfort, T. G. M. (2007). A review of mental health research on bisexual individuals when compared to homosexual and heterosexual individuals. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.), Becoming visible: Counseling bisexuals across the lifespan (pp. 28–51). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Doll, L. S., & Beeker, C. (1996). Male bisexual behavior and HIV risk in the United States: Synthesis of research with implications for behavioral interventions. AIDS Education and Prevention, 8, 205–225.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Ellis, H. (1942). Studies in the psychology of sex: Volume 1. New York: Random House. (Original work published 1905).Google Scholar
  19. Fox, R. C. (1996). Bisexuality in perspective: A review of theory, research. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.), Bisexuality: The psychology and politics of an invisible minority (pp. 3–50). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  20. Freud, S. (1963). An autobiographical study. New York: Norton. (Original work published 1925).Google Scholar
  21. Frieden, L. (2002). Invisible lives: Addressing black male bisexuality in the novels of E. Lynn Harris. In B. Beemyn & E. Steinman (Eds.), Bisexual men in culture and society (pp. 73–90). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.Google Scholar
  22. Fullilove, M. T., & Fullilove, R. E. (1999). Stigma as an obstacle to AIDS action: The case of the African American community. American Behavioral Scientist, 42, 1117–1129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Han, C. S. (2008). A qualitative exploration of the relationship between racism and unsafe sex among Asian Pacific Islander gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, doi:  10.1007/s10508-007-9308-7.
  24. Heckman, T. G., Kelly, J. A., Sikkema, K. J., Roffman, R. R., Solomon, L. J., Winett, R. A., et al. (1995). Differences in HIV risk between bisexual and exclusively gay men. AIDS Education and Prevention, 7, 504–512.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Kabakchieva, E., Vassileva, S., Kelly, J. A., Amirkhanian, Y. A., DiFranceisco, W. J., McAuliffe, T. L., et al. (2006). HIV risk behavior patterns, predictors, and sexually transmitted disease prevalence in the social networks of young Roma (gypsy) men in Sofia, Bulgaria. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 33, 485–490.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kalichman, S. C., Roffman, R. A., Picciano, J. F., & Bolan, M. (1998). Risk for HIV infection among bisexual men seeking HIV-prevention services and risks posed to their female partners. Health Psychology, 17, 320–327.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. King, J. L. (2004). On the down low: A journey into the lives of “straight” Black men who sleep with men. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  28. King, J. L., & Carreras, C. (2005). Coming up from the down low: The journey to acceptance, healing, and honest love. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  30. Lewis, G. B. (2003). Black-white differences in attitudes toward homosexuality and gay rights. Public Opinion Quarterly, 67, 59–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewis, L. J., & Kertzner, R. M. (2003). Toward improved interpretation and theory building of African American male sexualities. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 383–395.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Malebranche, D. (2003). Black men who have sex with men and the HIV epidemic: Next steps for public health. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 862–865.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Malebranche, D. (2007). Black bisexual men and HIV: Time to think deeper. Paper presented at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion Sexual Health Seminar Series, Bloomington, Indiana.Google Scholar
  34. Miller, W. M. (2002). “Ethically questionable?”: Popular media reports on bisexual men and AIDS. In B. Beemyn & E. Steinman (Eds.), Bisexual men in culture and society (pp. 93–112). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.Google Scholar
  35. Millett, G., Malebranche, D., Mason, B., & Spikes, P. (2005). Focusing “down low”: Bisexual black men, HIV risk and heterosexual transmission. Journal of the National Medical Association, 97(Suppl. 7), 52S–59S.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Montgomery, J. P., Mokotoff, E. D., Gentry, A. C., & Blair, J. M. (2003). The extent of bisexual behaviour in HIV-infected men and implications for transmission to their female partners. AIDS Care, 15, 829–837.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Muñoz-Laboy, M. (2004). Beyond MSM: Sexual desire among bisexually-active Latino men in New York City. Sexualities, 7, 55–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Muñoz-Laboy, M. A., & Dodge, B. (2007). Bisexual Latino men and HIV and sexually transmitted infections risk: An exploratory analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 97, 1102–1106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nubia. (2005). 20 warning signs of down low brothers. New York: LuLu Publishing.Google Scholar
  40. (2008). A secret sex world: Living on the ‘down low’. Retrieved online at
  41. Parker, R. (1991). Bodies, pleasures and passions: Sexual culture in contemporary Brazil. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
  42. Parker, R. (1996). Bisexuality and HIV/AIDS in Brazil. In P. Aggleton (Ed.), Bisexualities and AIDS: International perspectives (pp. 148–160). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  43. Parker, R. (1999). Beneath the equator: Cultures of desire, male homosexuality, and emerging gay communities in Brazil. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Pathela, P., Hajat, A., Schillinger, J., Blank, S., Sell, R., & Mostashari, F. (2006). Discordance between sexual behavior and self-reported sexual identity: A population-based survey of New York City men. Annals of Internal Medicine, 145, 416–425.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Sandfort, T. G. M., & Dodge, B. (in press). Homosexual and bisexual labels and behaviors among men: The need for clear conceptualizations, accurate operationalizations, and appropriate methodological designs. In V. Reddy, T. G. M. Sandfort, & R. Rispel (Eds.), Perspectives on same-sex sexuality, gender and HIV/AIDS in South Africa: From social silence to social science. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.Google Scholar
  46. Scott-Blanton, J. (2005). My husband is on the down low ... and I know about it. Triangle, VA: JaRon Publishing.Google Scholar
  47. Stokes, J. P., Vanable, P., & McKirnan, D. J. (1997). Comparing gay and bisexual men on sexual behavior, condom use, and psychosocial variables related to HIV/AIDS. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 383–397.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Taylor, C. (1978). El ambiente: Male homosexual social life in Mexico City. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California at Berkeley.Google Scholar
  49. Ward, E. G. (2005). Homophobia, hypermasculinity and the US black church. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 7, 493–504.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yoshino, K. (2000). The epistemic contract of bisexual erasure. Stanford Law Review, 52, 353–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric InstituteColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Department of Applied Health ScienceIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations