Sex is Sex. Get Over It.

by An Ordinary Man (the novel)

“I could go gay.”

“What!” Andrew’s shock rang out like a gunshot.

“Not gay, exactly – more like down low. You know, like the black guys do.”

“No, I don’t know what the black guys do – and I sort of wonder how you do.” Andrew could not quite hide his uneasiness.

Sex is over-categorized, often in ways that make little sense.  As many as 20% of heterosexual couples persist in relationships that no longer include sex – are you still heterosexual if you’re not having sex?  Do you remain “hetero” because if you were to have sex, you’d want it with a member of the opposite gender?  If two guys live together without having sex, are they homosexual? Does it make them “gay”?  Or roommates?  If they do have sex, but only because they cannot find cooperative women, are they gay then?  What about a woman who, disappointed by a male lover, seeks solace with another woman – lesbian?  At what point; the hug, the kiss, the caress?  Suppose I like to do things with one gender that could be also be done with the other?  What about the poor souls who don’t have someone of either gender to get off with and fuel their fantasies with whatever appeals to them at the moment?  Gay?  Straight?  Sex is just sex.  Some things you’ll definitely do, some you might do under the circumstances, and some you wouldn’t ever.  The labels don’t always work.

But in 2003, a new label came about.  The Down Low.  Men having sex with men, usually anonymously, without identifying themselves as gay or bi-sexual.  Married men, men with girl friends.  Sociologically, it would seem pretty easy; you go to a place where the expectations were clear, where your very presence communicates at least a limited amount of sexual availability.  Go there, get off, go home.  How convenient is that?  Black men didn’t invent the idea and certainly aren’t the only ones practicing it, but they do seem to have been the ones to coin a usable term for it.

Richard probably read about it here, about FLEX, a Cleveland bathhouse: “Double Lives on the Down Low” (NY Times Magazine 8/3/03)