Poppers, those smelly solvents also known as “aromas” or leather cleaner, have this allure that I didn’t always get. Alkyl and butyl nitrates provide a short high by giving the brain a buttload (more on this later) of oxygen that many people like when they’re fucking.
Or as my ex-boyfriend and well-known poppers connoisseur succinctly put it: “They just make me extra horny.”
But it’s that extra horny (and especially high) that made British lawmakers consider banning poppers — until they came to their senses in March, thanks to the testimony of a confessed poppers user, gay Conservative MP Crispin Blunt.
Though the honourable Member of Parliament for Surrey is a fan of them at sexytime, my debut involved me doing the chicken dance at some trendy Japanese bar in New York City — the kind of place where they definitely weren’t playing the chicken song.
“Do you want to try some poppers?” this girl asked me in a thick Spanish accent. I was 24 and backpacking around the east coast, staying in hostels and getting drunk or high at least a couple nights a week, so I was like “Sure!”
I took a whiff, didn’t feel much, then took another. I got all lightheaded, the music started to sound like banging pots and pans and my knees buckled. I teeter-tottered from side to side as my arms flapped about like the aforementioned bird. I fell back onto a well-placed and thankfully unoccupied bench behind me and it was over. Wow!
The science says poppers work by relaxing blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain, giving you a rush of euphoria. They also relax involuntary muscles, which include some of the ones helping me stand that night in New York and the sphincter muscles in your butthole, which is why so many gays like them.
A few years later, I met the ex I was telling you about and started sniffing poppers again. He was using them because he was trying to get back into bottoming after having a tear in his bum. He tried a number of things to help him relax but he wasn’t having much success.
“But then I was at someone’s house and they were like, ‘Hey! You should try some poppers.’ I did it and it worked right away and I’ve been buying them regularly ever since,” he told me.
The Canadian ban on alkyl nitrates didn’t stop my ex either. Since poppers were banned in Canada in 2013, he’s gotten them from a few different sources he found online.
“I basically went on Craigslist and the first ones I bought were already opened,” he said. “I didn’t realize it at first but I think they made them themselves and they were absolute shit.”
A couple tries later he now gets it from a guy who meets him near his home.
And while the sale of poppers in Canada is punishable by fines and jail time, there are ways to get them if some-guy-off-Craigslist isn’t your thing.
“I get emails asking if I deliver in Canada all the time,” says Marc Birou, who runs a mail-order business Poppers-R-Us.com out of his home in San Diego, California. “I don’t do international mailings but I will send to Buffalo, NY and Blaine, WA,” which are just across the border from Toronto and Vancouver.
Poppers-R-Us and his other site ChokeaChicken.com mail authentic brand name poppers, such as Rush, English Royale, Hardware, Locker Room and Bolt anywhere in the United States.
The sites also deliver various kink hardware, toys, erection pills and other items by mail.
Birou cautions against buying knockoff poppers that may be less safe. “We don’t sell any of the copycats,” he says, noting all his poppers are made in the US. “Ours won’t hurt anyone. People need to be careful about buying from their neighbours or online.”
So while poppers technically aren’t allowed here in Canada, there are ways to get them, even the quality stuff. And after all these years, I think I’m starting to get why they’re so popular.
Now, if only Health Canada would wise up to the fact that there is little evidence they cause any harm when used as intended.
One day, Canada… One day…