Still Don’t Understand ASMR? Let Us Help You Out.

ASMR is a beautiful art form based on relaxation, kindness, and support. If you’re part of the community, you don’t need me to tell you that. But for those of you who somehow found your way here, seen some things, and are very confused, weirded out, or suspicious that ASMR is some sort of fetish… well, this one’s for you.

(If you’ve never even heard of ASMR, here’s some information to get you started.)

Why is everyone whispering?

In short, it’s relaxing. It’s like being read a story at bedtime when you were a kid, or whispering secrets under a blanket to a close friend, or a meditation CD. This kind of whispering usually happens in a soothing, comfortable situation, and so people like that.

What are tingles, and are they a sex thing?

No, tingles are not a sex thing. I need you to open your mind for a bit and separate the idea that anything that feels good must be sexual. Does winning an award feel good? Sure. Is it sexual? Probably not. Are some comforting words from your mom nice to hear? Of course. Does that make it sexual? Let’s hope not.

So things can feel nice without being sexual. We’ve clarified that now. So what are tingles? Tingles, as the community has dubbed them, are the pleasant little feelings you get in your scalp when your ASMR is being triggered. It feels like when someone plays with your hair, or when you’re listening to an emotional song build (although that’s technically called frisson, which is more of an energetic tingle, but it’s a similar idea). It’s relaxing, it’s calming, and can help you fall asleep.

Why are you pretending to be a nurse or a witch or a travel agent?

These kinds of videos are called roleplays, in which the content creator in question plays a role with the intent to relax the viewer. This could be anything really, but medical roleplays are particularly popular.

It’s like when you’re getting an eye exam and they lower the lights, speaking softly as they ask you to tell them which setting on the machine looks better. It’s like when you’re getting your hair cut and they’re having a conversation with you while going through your hair, the sounds of the scissors, the spritz of the water. Imagine getting a scalp massage, that personal attention, that tingly relaxation.

These are all situations that we don’t necessarily get to experience every day, although they can be very relaxing (have I used that word enough yet?). To be able to enjoy those experiences without really weirding out your hair dresser with excessive appointments, these are videos where the creator can get creative, and you can get a more interesting experience.

Why are they smacking their lips in my ear?

Ah, you probably mean mouth sounds or eating sounds. These can definitely sound disgusting if you’re new, and to be honest, there are plenty of people in the community who really hate them too. In person, the sounds of someone eating something or chewing gum can really piss a person off. For some though, whether or not it annoys them in person, it can be really relaxing to listen to in an ASMR context. Most of us can’t really explain why; it’s sort of something you have to try for yourself and see how it feels. Maybe it’s because those sounds are heard when someone’s talking up close, someone whispering something nice right in you ear — a tingly, intimate moment. In the end, it’s either something you like or you don’t. If you do, congrats on the tingles! If not, don’t worry, many will agree with you and you don’t need to watch them.

Come on, it’s a girl pretending to flirt with me.

A big part of ASMR is personal attention. That’s why scalp massages are relaxing in person and in ASMR videos, or why makeup roleplays are relaxing (someone nice to you all close up, light brushes on your cheeks, it’s nice!), or why being an inch away from someone you like can feel exhilarating. Sensuality is not the same as sexuality, although they can overlap. Saying that they are the same is like saying that hugging a family member is on par with hugging your significant other. There are differences, even if there can be crossover. Anything can be sexualized, but that doesn’t mean that its intent is to be.


You might have a lot more questions, and if you do, leave a comment below. Hopefully you got something out of this and it helped explain ASMR a bit better for you. Intrigued? If so, here are some triggers to get you started here and here.

If you’re in the community, and you run into someone who doesn’t understand what ASMR is about, send them this link — maybe it’ll help!

(Image used under the Creative Commons license. Credit to Kyle Nessen.)