This year has seen T-shirts, pendants and even birthday cakes depicting bottles of RUSH; The iconic Poppers brand with the striking yellow and red bottle. It’s hard to untangle whether it’s the zeitgeist or, whether Adam Zmith is single-handedly responsible for summoning Poppers into the limelight. “Deep Sniff”, published in 2021, is everything you need to know about the origins of Poppers as a party drug, sex apparatus and more importantly; its cultural significance as a “Gay” artefact.
The book came to my attention because the cover was designed by Bobby Redmond, who also designed our Prudenzia t-shirts. It's a book which asks the question…
“What are those charming little room atomisers doing next to the grinders at my local corner shop?”
The story harks back to Victorian laboratories, takes you through discos, deep into the annals of the AIDS pandemic and right up to Adam Zmith’s own conflicted relationship with his teenage sexuality. The hybrid of historical and autobiographical references that he uses is a compelling way to convey the facts. His description of viewing MarcoTureno’s “Trainer compilation for popperbators (only male)” is evocative of those lonely teenage fumbles that feel so familiar. Well, familiar to anyone who struggled with their budding erotic urges. He presents a queer teenager’s search for connection whilst feeling disjunct with the community around them. And, a guided inhalation, the apparent olfactory solution to the problem.
The book goes on to reference how Poppers have been recommended for menstrual cramps. Which I subsequently tried and personally can’t attest to. But Hey! It did afford me 45 seconds of pain distraction, if not relief. It got me thinking about menstruating bodies and the mainstream use of poppers… This year the BMJ published a study about “young women and anal sex” (*it says women; it means anyone with a vagina). The findings suggest “women” are more prone to anal trauma and faecal incontinence during anal intercourse because of their pelvic floor and that the number of “women” doing it is rising. After reading the study I spent a lot of angst wondering about the long-term damage anal play might be doing to my own body. Although I couldn't possibly advocate casual drug use. I’d posit that if more people are having anal sex, then perhaps more sphincteric relaxation might be a good thing across the board.
In any case, the biggest takeaway from “Deep Sniff” isn’t about Poppers at all. The book reveals itself as a refreshing perspective on the propensity we humans have, to categorise our identity whilst seeking connection. And how dishearteningly all of this raw emotion has been commodified for capitalist gain.
I’ve been hopeless at getting this review up … but I do plan to be more rigorous in pursuing this concept going forward. New Year’s resolutions etc. January 2023’s book of the month will be... I haven’t decided yet but it might be: “He’s just not that into you” – Because it’s positively 10’sies kitsch. #bimbocore