Erotic Discretion: Toward a Speculative Memoir on Desire, Betrayal, and Black Gay Monogamy


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




“Erotic Discretion” examines the evolving public perception of the “down low”—DL—a sexual metaphor for Black men who identify as heterosexual but conceal same-gender desires. Following J.L. King’s 2004 appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” DL men were often portrayed as promiscuous and deceitful, blamed for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Black communities. Today, however, many social media and adult platforms feature erotic content focused on objectifying DL men. This dissertation argues that constant exposure to this content entices some Black gay men in monogamous relationships to seek discreet sexual encounters with DL men. Using an innovative form of life writing—the speculative memoir—“Erotic Discretion” blends fictional scenarios, magical realism, and personal narratives to explore the emotional turmoil Black gay men in monogamous relationships face when their partners’ erotic fascination with DL men leads to betrayal.