ASMR: The ‘S’ doesn’t stand for ‘Sexual’

by maximusaurus

I’ve talked in the past about ASMR, (see my entry on it here: which is basically a pleasant relaxing sensation some people experience in response to certain sounds. (And sometimes visuals too) Common “triggers” include being spoken to softly, the sound of splashing water, or the sound of materials like paper, plastic, and fabric.

While ASMR currently enjoys booming popularity online, where a flourishing community of ASMR artists create videos designed to evoke the sensation, it has yet to really attain mainstream recognition, in part because of certain misconceptions about it.

Perhaps the largest of these is that it is a kind of “fetish”, and that its popularity stems more from the attractiveness of the (mostly female) artists. While I cannot speak for all ASMR enthusiasts, nor for the artists themselves, I firmly believe this is not the case.

Detractors often accuse ASMR artists of essentially selling on sex appeal. Before I present any rebuttal to this, however, my initial response would be that even if this were true, so what? Is it a crime for these women to dress as they like, or to wear makeup if they so choose? Criticism of this nature seems to me to be rooted in sexism.

This attitude also assumes that the audience is overwhelmingly male, yet forums, comment sections, and social media suggest that the audience for ASMR is fairly balanced in terms of gender.

While the majority of ASMR artists are female, there are male ones as well. In fact, many believe that ASMR as an art form owes its roots to work of Bob Ross, whose 1983-1994 television show The Joy of Painting establishes many of the archetypal elements of ASMR, such as soft and reassuring speech, and talking the audience through a procedure. Now, no disrespect to Mr Ross, but I hardly think his show’s success was due to his sex appeal. (Well, at least not primarily!)

Personally, I don’t find ASMR sexual at all. For me, it’s more a maternal thing; it evokes the same feeling I would get when my mother would comfort me as a small child; that feeling of reassurance, comfort, and security. It’s like a kind of meditation or mindfulness exercise to me; it helps me get to sleep, or to de-stress when I’m anxious.

This idea that ASMR is simply a “fetish” sells an intriguing phenomenon and a remarkable community of artists short.