If you're like me, you have no idea what ASMR is. A quick search on YouTube will turn up plenty of clips of young women whispering to their camera in a stream of constant speech. At first glance it can feel intimate, almost flirtatious, but that isn't the point. It's not sexual, not even close, actually. If you're a person who experiences Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) you'll already know this.
ASMR is a tricky feeling to describe (especially since I don't experience it). My co-worker (who is currently watching an ASMR video) describes it as "A tingly euphoria triggered by certain sensory experience. It usually starts at your head and makes it way through your body." This tingle seems to send people into a blissfully peaceful meditative state, which is why they seek it out on YouTube.
Not everyone experiences ASMR and while some people just "get" the feeling most need external "triggers" to start the process. Triggers can include pretty much anything from getting a haircut, to hearing someone chew gum, to pretending you're the Tinman getting oiled up by Dorothy.
To learn more about the process, and the approach behind making ASMR videos, we sat down with ASMR YouTuber, British Primrose to talk about the sensation, the confused sexual nature of the phenomena, and the strange world of ASMR roleplays.
What was your first introduction to ASMR? How would you personally describe the phenomenon?
I discovered ASMR online nearly four years ago by accident, whilst searching through Youtube videos. I found Heather Feathers 'Comprehensive Physical Examination,' and was fascinated with the concept. I soon learnt about ASMR, which is a phenomenon that still scientists are baffled with and is commonly described as a physical sensation that you can feel anywhere on your body, but is mostly felt on your scalp. This can be through touch, whisper, soft speaking or role playing. The brain is such a fascinating organ and tool, the feeling of ASMR to me produces life like endorphins that relaxes you through times of stress and anxiety.
What's the first thing you'd mention to someone who doesn't experience ASMR?
Definitely take the time to watch different styles of ASMR and find one that suits your preference. The community has tripled since I first discovered it, and there are a lot of passionate and creative men and women who create videos for different audiences. If you don't experience ASMR, then that is ok! It isn't for everybody, and I wouldn't pressure a person to do so. If you are curious about ASMR, research it yourself, not what others have told you good or bad. It is a very personal thing once you've found the creators that do relax you.
What are your thoughts on the confused sexual nature of ASMR? How does ASMR differ from experiencing arousal?
I've watched and read many articles that first describe ASMR as some sort of sexual nature which in the past, has given ASMR a bad name for itself and a topic of discussion and laughter. Personally, I associate ASMR as something that relaxes you and helps you fall asleep, not anything of sexual nature. I have a seen a few creators who have gone down that road, and have become popular through it, and if men or women experience arousal through it, it is fine and is their choice, but to me, sex is a completely different experience altogether and I think ASMR should be separate from that.
Why do you believe there are more women making ASMR videos than men?
I have spoken to men who have told me they watch ASMR videos in secret and haven't told anybody about it because they are ashamed of it. That could be one of many reasons as to why women make more ASMR videos than men. I could also say women tend to be more competitive with each other, but I think that would be absurd to agree to, but not impossible. It isn't something I have ever thought about really. Whilst thinking about it now, women do tend to have different highs and lows to their voices and that gives ASMR a broader spectrum for the community. I hope more men get involved creating ASMR in the future, most men have crisp, low tones and I love that.
What do you think has lead to the recent boom in ASMR's popularity and research?
It comes down to mental health. A lot of viewers experience anxiety, panic attacks, stress and many other disorders that have and do help by watching ASMR itself. The amount of those who have admitted this, is most likely the biggest reason why. Mental health doesn't get researched and taken seriously enough, and that is very concerning. Considering we live in modern times, a lot more people are unfortunately going through it, and from what I've read of viewers on all sorts of videos, ASMR has been successful and continues to be.
The more successful videos on your channel are all role plays. What do you think it is about role plays that prove to be more stimulating than the more simplified ASMR approach like gum chewing?
In real life, going to the Doctor or Dentist can be quite daunting and many people can become quite stressed and anxious in these situations. Many people complain that their appointments are very quick, and they don't feel cared for. I have always loved acting, and is one of the reasons I began my channel. Acting in a role play and generally caring for the viewer who is watching, gives them that sense of feeling respected and more calm and collected when they do actually go through these real life challenges. It is also the same if one feels lonely or is having a hard time, having that ability to help a viewer feel like they have a friend and are there for them, is a lovely feeling to experience and you really do appreciate it for them and yourself.
Is the commitment to realism important when doing an ASMR role play? What do you get out of it?
I try to make my role plays as real as possible and cooperate them with different accents. My channel is mostly role plays and I wanted to give people the opportunity to feel like they are really there and research as much as I can prior, so there is quite a commitment to it and scripting. I get to showcase my acting to the world as well as helping viewers and I am extremely grateful and happy to be able to.
Do you personally experience ASMR and if so what is your most vivid memory of the experience outside of YouTube? Do you get ASMR from your own videos?
One thinks of ASMR as if you were watching your favourite musician live and experience that high when they reach a note on the piano or a voice that covers your upper body in goosebumps and the hairs on your arms raise. It is very rare that I experience ASMR from the way I described it watching online videos. However ASMR to me, makes me feel very relaxed and very sleepy, which is great if you don't sleep well. I also enjoy watching the videos themselves, seeing what creators have come up with and how they act. A vivid memory I have of ASMR that I experienced outside of Youtube definitely brings me back to my childhood. I loved my hair being played with, and I still do now. Whether that is brushing my hair with your hands, massaging it or styling, I never want it to end. I also had a very odd experience where I loved going to the Dentist, the feeling of gloves and tools in my mouth made me feel relaxed. I can't say that is the same feeling for me now that I am older.
Would you Do ASMR role plays in person, or would that weird you out?
I actually had a discussion about this with a friend not so long ago. I'd love to see a business invest in a facility that specializes in a theater arts ASMR. I can imagine actors or even people who are retired in these roles, given the chance to make something realistic and those who do experience ASMR have the opportunity to see an acting Doctor, Dentist, Nurse etc who will take their time with you in the exact same way a person role plays online in the ASMR community. Maybe one day, I'll invest in something like this myself. For now, I am happy with filming online.
For more from British Primrose ASMR subscribe to her YouTube channel.