‘Most’ ASMR content is not intended to be sexual, but more often than not there are plethora of comments on YouTube that confuse ASMR to soft-core pornography. How can content with motives to relax be confused with material to arouse?
The photo above that I got from a popular ASMR video depicts a viewer describing how the ASMR video made them feel as if they were watching porn.
ASMR is not inherently made to be sexualized, the sole purpose of ASMR is to deliver content that can trigger ASMR and aid in relaxation. For an unaware bystander or someone with limited knowledge of ASMR, a glance at the content will usually appear to be sexual. Sex has historically been focused on man and women: the dominant role belonging to men and the submissive role belonging to women. ASMR videos that are more popular (based on views) are usually content based around on servitude. While other ASMR trigger videos exist they are visuals that are limited strictly on the focus of inorganic objects (tapping, drawing, crinkling paper) and the artists are not in the shot, on the contrary, popular videos have a formula which are usually combined with a strong presence of a human-female manipulating objects and/or scenarios to evoke ASMR triggers.
The accessibility of videos with different content and individuals performing acts to elicit triggers can lead to an unaware and subconscious feeling of power and dominance. If a viewer couldn’t receive triggers from one video, they can easily jump to another video to obtain trigger material. As Anderson J (2015) stated, “For the ASMR community on the Internet, distant intimacy offers the promise of control, not only of the Other but of the time and space of interaction. Unsurprisingly, due to the models that ASMR community has taken for their videos, from medical to personal care, the extent of the ASMRer’s control over the flows of communication through video evokes similar controlled interactions within care service industries. In this way, the distant intimacy of ASMR mimics other, more recognizable forms of intimacy that nevertheless struggle within normative models of sexuality.” The intimacy combined with the artist aiming to serve the viewer with relaxation contributes to the feeling of control.
ASMR has a clear gender bias and double standards. While, the popular videos consist of female artist performing roles that are dominated by females in the real world, such as, make-up, spas, teacher role-plays these videos are automatically perceived as sexual because the artists are female. There is no denying that sexual appeal sells and subsequently contribute to increasing the fame of many female artists but the negative sides is that their content of their work is being devalued as their bodies are constantly being objectified. Speculations are made that female ASMRists are popular due to their appearance and discounts the hard work and creative efforts made to produce the video. Meanwhile, male ASMRist challenge standard gender norms by also producing many role-playing videos featuring makeup tutorials and other typical roles society depicts as feminine.