Our friend—let’s call him P—loves poppers.
A dramatic recreation of the winning sniff.
Our friend—let’s call him P—loves poppers. P is a 37-year-old radio and voiceover actor, a volunteer at a suicide helpline, and a poppers enthusiast. Originally the term “poppers” referred to tiny glass bulbs of amyl nitrite that old people would pop under their nose (thus the name) to stop angina. Then gays figured out that they also make your orgasms about twenty-hundred times stronger and by the mid-70s doing poppers was such an integral part the disco scene (both gay and straight) that clubs would dump whole loads of amyl into the vents to save people the trouble of lifting their hands to their faces. Once the government caught on, they tried to curb recreational use by making amyl nitrite prescription only, but this just created a thriving market for all sorts of generic nitrites like isobutyl or cyclohexyl which have the same effect when popped. Then in the 80s a handful of dickheads tried to tie popper use to AIDS and they were finally banned altogether.
But poppers survived! To this day you can buy bottles of the lesser nitrites at pretty much any sex shop. They just have to claim they’re “liquid aroma” or “video head cleaner” to make it seem like no one’s using them to get off. Technically they’re all vasodilators, meaning they relax the muscles constricting your blood vessels which leads to a flushed sensation in your head and extremities and for some reason also loosens your sphincter muscles. This is the other reason for their continued popularity with the gay community.There are so many different brands of this stuff, like “Iron Horse” and “Jungle Juice,” we wondered if there was really any difference between them at all. So we invited P over to do sort of like a wine tasting, but with poppers. We lined up 11 bottles procured from gay sex shops all along Christopher Street and gave him some fresh coffee beans to cleanse his palette in between bottles—just like they do at fancy perfume stores. All in all it was a very classy affair. Anyways, here’s what P had to say about the goods, and about popping in general.
You see Rush in every 24-hour bodega. It’s the most well-known brand and it’s pretty standard fare. The effects of sniffing it go away really quick, like 15 seconds at the most, which is average unless you’re already drunk or on other drugs too and then it seems to last longer. You sniff it, it gives you a head rush and your face flushes and you laugh and that’s it. However, if you use it in a sexual setting, it’s totally different because you’re not laughing. Your butthole opens right up [popping noise]. It’s easy access, and it’s less work for you. It’s a shortcut to the ass. AMSTERDAM SPECIAL
Usually my technique to get into a guy’s butt is eating his ass. Immediately the ass is up in the air and ready. But I also always keep poppers around too, just in case. Usually the young guys love them. They go crazy on them, I guess because they have more brain cells to kill. Seriously though, they’ll start bucking like wild horses! It’s like, damn, this is the best ten bucks you could ever spend!
This brand is a little stronger than the Rush. My face is turning red and I’m starting to sweat, but nothing super special. BOLT
This one is mild and has more of a chemical smell. I guess the name is supposed to appeal to butch construction workers or something? Some guys who love poppers want you to hold the bottle under their nose the whole time you’re doing them from behind. But the problem is that if the rim of the bottle touches your nose for too long, it burns. So you can tell if someone’s been doing a lot of poppers because their nostrils are all red and inflamed. You have to be careful.
Sometimes when you order in for sex, like on Manhunt.com or Craiglist’s “Casual Encounters,” some guys will put “must have poppers” on their profile. It’s like, they supply the ass, you supply the poppers. I’ve never seen anyone request a specific brand though. These poppers are meh. HARDWARE
Whoa. This one had a kick when I opened it. It made a pop. Does that mean it’s gone bad? Who knows. One night at a club my friend Steve dropped a bottle of this stuff and the cap cracked. He picked it up with a cigarette in his hand and the liquid spilled out onto his hand and his whole hand burst into flame. He dropped the bottle and as the bottle was rolling away it was like a line of flames, and all the queens just ran away screaming. He ended up with third-degree burns on his hand and couldn’t jerk off for months, poor thing. LOCKER ROOM
This one is called “leather cleaner.” It’s all bullshit—they have to call it leather cleaner or “liquid room deodorizer” because it’s illegal to sell it for recreational use. I think this would burn right through leather. Then again, maybe it’s just being marketed to the leather community. They’re big into poppers.
This one smells a little fruitier than the others. Like, sweeter. And it’s pretty strong. This one lingers for a long time. It’s like your brain gets hot, and your butthole too. Wow, this one is strong.
At Folsom Street East, the annual leather fair in Chelsea, they had a booth selling this brand. They had “regular” and “platinum,” so I asked the slave selling it what the difference was and he said there wasn’t one. He was like, ‘No difference, some guys just like silver.” Queens are very particular. This one’s pretty standard. RAM
This one is definitely the most blatant in its packaging. Ram it in! Wow, it’s really strong too. How many brain cells am I killing right now? It’s just like… wow.
The proper technique for doing poppers is just like doing coke—except obviously you don’t actually inhale it. This stuff is very poisonous. If you accidentally do ingest some, it says on the label to drink milk or water and induce vomiting immediately. Yikes.
Anyway, what I meant is you’re supposed to do one sniff in each nostil, just like coke. It’s bad manners not to. Some guys inhale it through the mouth, but I don’t recommend that. I’ve heard that men who are into heavy fisting spray something even stronger than poppers on a rag and hold it over their mouths, but that’s way too advanced for me. TAIWAN BLUE
If you’re fucking someone and the poppers are good and strong, you start to feel like you’re really, fully inside the other person. It feels transcendent. I don’t know why more straight couples don’t use it for anal sex too. I mean, it doesn’t make you poop your pants or anything, it just relaxes your muscles and makes you tingly. It’s a bit like how sex feels on crystal meth, but with poppers it lasts for 15 seconds instead of three days and you don’t end up strapped in a sex sling with multiple fists up your ass. This one is no big whoop. Sorta smells like Iron Horse. "ORIGINAL" BROWN BOTTLE
[Note: when we bought this one, the guy who sold it to us said, “People who really know about poppers know about this one.” We’re not sure exactly what he meant—maybe it’s actually amyl?] Whoa. It is definitely stronger. I feel the heat coming up my head, and it’s a little fruity, like the Locker Room brand. This one means business! For a lot of guys, poppers kills their hard-on, which is why tops don’t usually do poppers. But if you can do it and stay hard, when you come it makes your orgasm insane. I think the guy in the store was right. Locker Room and Ram are runners-up, but this one is clearly the winner!