Interview: The Down-Low Black Men’s Club

“Maxwell” is a down-low brother’s best friend. When I first started experimenting with man-sex about three years ago I met Max online. He told me his life story and about his club for down-low married men.

We agreed to meet and I went by his place to “audition” for the club. I passed with flying colors! But later we developed a true friendship. Talking to him made me realize I am far from the only man struggling with his sexuality.

When I decided to go to my first meeting of Max’s club I was nervous as hell — I had never been to a group sex party before. I circled the block a few times, looking at all the cars parked out front and wondering what was going on behind the well-curtained windows. I finally got enough nerve to go in and had great time. And I was struck at how “normal” all the guys looked — just everyday professional Black men who liked to get down with other men from time to time.

And they made me feel right at home.

Max agreed to be interviewed for my blog. He discussed how his club started and how he feels about DL culture in the Black community:

Q: It appears you have a fondness for married, down-low Black Men. How did that get started.

A: I discovered that I enjoy the two principal kinds of distinct ‘energy’ one finds in sexual encounters with married men. On one hand, there’s a white-hot ‘urgency’ with men who don’t have regular access to male-on-male contact. Conversely, there’s a fascinating sense of wonder with a first-timer or relative ‘newbie’ – it’s like a fully-grown, seasoned man losing his virginity for a second time. Back in my early 20’s I met a married man who had essentially been ‘cut-off’ from sex by his wife. He was rather handsome, in his late 40’s, very nice guy. But his wife didn’t like his hairy body. She actually yelled at him in bed because he leaked a lot of pre-cum (“You’re ruining my sheets,” she’d shriek). When we eventually got together, he slowly relaxed when he realized he was with someone who actually accepted and enjoyed his masculine attributes and the natural ‘nectar’ of his sexual arousal. By the end of the encounter, he was all but ‘howling’ from the intensity of the release – both sexual and psychological. Still today, I find these types of interaction intensly exciting.

Q: When did you decide to form your club? How many members do you have and how often do you meet?

A: I started the group with a married buddy of mine in May 2001. Several years into my relationship with my former partner (who had insisted on monogamy, but had not himself kept the bargain), we agreed that we would now both be allowed to play separately and discreetly. Thus, I decided to pro-actively indulge my interest in bi-married men, as they are generally discreet and want to avoid complex ‘entanglements’. I really clicked with one particular married brother in his late 40’s that I met online. We became good friends in and out of bed, and he is to this day one of my close confidants. It turned out we both had an unfulfilled interest in exploring group sexual activity. So, he and I each invited a couple of buddies we knew, rented a room in a nice luxury hotel, and had an amazingly sensual afternoon. It wasn’t all ‘sex’. It was massage. Making out. My most striking memory of that first gathering is of the co-founder’s buddy. Nice dude in his early-40’s whose wife flatly refused to play with his very sensitive nipples during sex (“Those are ‘women’s parts’,” she told him). Our nipple-play with him caused him to pull a pillow over his own mouth as he literally screamed during orgasm. Afterward, we held him silently for 5 minutes as he trembled in our arms. It was that moment that really made me decide to host on a regular basis. I really felt there was a need for a ‘safe-space’ where nice, discreet guys on the DL could go to express their sexuality, without having to risk cruising a park or some adult video store.

Q: Do you feel DL men are necessarily fully gay or just part of a sexual continuum?

Were we living in most any ancient civilization, I don’t think we’d be asked to make such a drastic either/or selection as we are in America today. I personally believe in the Kinsey Scale vision of sexuality being on a continuum between “1 and 6.” The principle is that most people are born somewhere between exclusively homosexual on one end, and exclusively hetero on the other – and most people’s orientation can slide a degree or two in either direction during their lifetime. Depending on one’s environment, religious upbringing and other frames of reference, you may or may not ACT on those natural, inborn impulses. Like anything else, I think the answer is complicated by Puritanical American tradition; relatively modern western religious attitudes about same-gender sex; as well as, in many communities of color, a legacy of mandated ‘macho’ requirements. In the African-American community, I’ve always felt our hyper-sensitivity about homosexuality actually has less to do with religiosity, and is more about how the issue plays into a history of persecution in which every other kind of inborn ‘difference’ from the majority ‘norms’ (hair texture, skin-tone, nose width, lip and buttock shape) was used against us. As an African-American Gay man, our community’s hostility on the issue complicates matters further. I do think that there IS a percentage of DL men (we could quibble about the exact number) who – all things being (more) equal and devoid of the sharp stigma in our community – would identify as Gay. Instead, they end up ‘following tradition,’ stifling their true natural attraction to men (as long as they can….) and marry women. Culturally, I understand it. As a Gay man, I also lament it. But speaking purely as a sexual being, however, I don’t judge it.

Q: What goes on at your parties?

A: The hallmark of our group is that we create a very relaxed, respectful and sensual setting. Each prospective new member must arrange a brief face-to-face chat with myself or the co-founder before getting an invite to our party (and only about 1/4 of ‘applicants’ are deemed to be a good ‘fit’). With us, it’s less about having a perfect body or a big dick, and more about creating a respectful, sensual vibe.

Out of a total of about 40 members, there are usually between 9 and 15 guys at a particular party. For the first half-hour or so, guys usually enjoy the food and beverages we provide, and talk about current events, sports, music, etc… until 5 or 6 guys or so arrive or some body’s personal schedule demands that things get rolling. Somebody makes a move, and two or three guys may head to one of the showers together. Others begin to disrobe in my study where they can neatly store their things. Most of the action takes place in the master and guest bedrooms, and in the rec room, where there’s a futon and a sturdy built in bench that has some other interesting uses. We usually keep adult DVD’s rolling on the big screen television

Sexual activity runs the range. Most of the activity is mutual oral and jacking off, frottage (ie: dry-humping/grinding), and making out. About half of the members are into some level of penetration, which provides a great ‘show’ for those who don’t go ‘all the way’. Condoms and water-based lube are in abundant supply and always used. From there, things occur rather organically. People group and re group again in various clusters of three, five, or two… One couple may decide to have intercourse, and a third will help the top with a condom, while a fourth is licking the nipples of the bottom. The scene is very tactile, very masculine but also startlingly sensual. One very masculine former military man and athelete enjoys giving massages. One time he spent the evening giving erotic massages to brothers, while other action went on around them. One brother was moved to tears. It’s kind of like being inside a virtual reality adult video game. There are moments that are brilliantly hot, and others that are achingly tender. I’ve had several men tell me that the outlet has probably saved their marriage, allowing them to continue to keep their sanity at home (…can’t wait to read the responses to that statement).

Q: Do your members network outside the group?

A: While we’re not set up to be a ‘dating club,’ some of our members have become friends. Some discover that they share a hobby (sports, motorcycles, art…) and hang out occasionally. If they happen to work near one another, they may catch lunch or dinner now and then. I will also say that, when my ex and I eventually split-up (for other reasons, incidentally), some of my most empathetic and proactively-supportive friends were among the members of the group. I don’t know if I would have made it through the ordeal without their encouragement and concern.

Q: How long do you see the club lasting?

That depends…. Another year? Another 10? As you mentioned in a recent blog, I do hope to be in a relationship again, and if the true ‘love of my life’ wanted a monogamous relationship, I would draw the curtain on the grand experiment. That being said, although I did monogamy with no problem (on my end) for the first 3/4 of my previous relationship, I don’t personally believe that its required for a healthy relationship. Some of the happiest couples I know – Gay and straight – have come to some level of respectful understanding that monogamy is a nice ideal, but not necessarily man’s natural inclination. They have negotiated respectful, honest ‘codes of conduct’ regarding some level of openness that works for them. Nothing hidden. Nothing sneaky. Conversely, I know plenty of couples who ‘protest too much’ – claiming to be monogamous when they are not-so-secretly sneaking around on one another. I believe in ‘honesty’. In an ideal world, I’d enjoy finding a partner who could handle being the ‘co-director’ of this amazing group of gentlemen.

Q: Describe yourself and your profession?

I’m in my mid-40’s, well educated with interesting hobbies and talents. I’m considered to be quite attractive. I’m a creative professional, and am very involved in each of my varied communities (black, gay, etc…), serving variously on some boards and panels. I would be about the last person most of my GLBT friends would suspect hosted orgies for bi-married men on the DL.