Sex talk
Speaking of Using Poppers

Simon Sheppard,

"It's just amazing," says one poppers fan. "You put a little bottle under your nose, breathe in, and suddenly sex becomes much more intense."

"Poppers" originally meant the drug amyl nitrite, an inhaled pain reliever for folks with heart disease that increases blood flow and reduces strain on the ticker. These days, with actual amyl usually available on a prescription-only basis, similar substances such as butyl or isobutyl nitrite are also sold as poppers. But whatever's in that little bottle, merely a whiff can instantaneously trigger a major, pulse-quickening rush during sex. The fan continues, "A hit of poppers makes everything in the whole world boil down to cocksucking or fucking, and it feels all-enveloping. It's not that I don't otherwise enjoy sex, it's just that poppers shift things into overdrive." And the effects can be practical, too: Judicious use of poppers has loosened up many a tight asshole, making a cock's entry more comfy.

Poppers are straightforward to use – just close off one nostril, inhale more or less deeply with the other, exhale, and maybe repeat – but they require a bit of care. Lube-slick hands can lose their grip on the glass bottle, resulting in anything from a chemical burn on the nose to a smelly mess all over the sheets. And, needless to say, you do not want to get the stuff in your eyes or mouth. Some aficionados use poppers-soaked cotton, often stuffed into a metal inhaler, to make things easier. And since the stuff evaporates quickly, the bottle has to be kept tightly closed (and preferably stored in the freezer or fridge) or a sizable investment is liable to go up in fumes.

There's no oversight regulating what gets sold – sometimes as "room odorizer" or "tape head cleaner" – in those little bottles, either. If some regard real amyl nitrite as sexual champagne, the stuff that guys actually end up using is often bathtub gin. Poppers can vary in strength from brand to brand, or even bottle to bottle, and some lose potency more quickly than others. Unfortunately, it comes down to trial and error. Says one user, "Some brands really get me off, while others just leave me slightly woozy. I kind of worry I might be inhaling something toxic. And it's not the sort of thing Consumer Reports runs tests on." So let the buyer beware.

As with other such intoxicating substances, not everyone is equally thrilled with the stuff. "It really stinks," says once disenchanted user, "and it gives me a splitting headache." Those aren't the only downsides, either. Though short-lasting, the rush is intense. Some men lose their balance, while others lose their inhibitions. Says one, "I get so involved in what I'm doing that I sometimes end up doing stuff I usually wouldn't." Still, the results are temporary. Laying off for a while, or abandoning the bottle altogether, will allow a return to both physical and mental equilibrium.

The use of poppers is certainly not health-enhancing, either. While it can cause a temporary drop in immune function, evidence for long-term immune suppression is slim. But poppers definitely can cause serious harm in folks with glaucoma or with liver, heart, or blood pressure problems, and combining inhaled nitrites with Viagra or the like is potentially fatal.

There's no sex-enhancing substance that doesn't have possible dangers, and those with health-related objections to inhaling poppers certainly have a point. Still, otherwise healthy guys can probably get away with occasional, moderate use of poppers. Just don't overdo it.

And do be sure to air out the room before your real boyfriend gets home.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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