Sensual ASMR: Does It Have A Place?
Automonous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a physical reaction to specific stimuli or triggers. These triggers vary by individual and can be visual, auditory or a combination of both. Many people describe ASMR as a tingly sensation which begins at the base of the spine or neck and slowly works its way throughout the back, shoulders, and head. Not everyone experiences ASMR, but those of us that do can attest to what a powerfully relaxing and pleasant state it creates. For some, it is the only thing that helps them to cope with crippling anxiety, PTSD, loneliness, or insomnia. The health benefits of ASMR are predominately anecdotal at this time, as no substantial research has been published to date on this phenomenon. You can learn more about the latest developments in ASMR news and research through ASMR University.
The ASMR community has traditionally resisted any attempt to categorise their content as sensual, insisting that the purpose of this art form is to platonically comfort and relax listeners. Due to this, ASMRtists who produce sensual content are often set aside as a fringe element. Frequently accused of giving the art form a bad name or worse, of propagating the ASMR tag as click-bait while failing to deliver an ASMR experience. Depending upon the artist, some of these claims may be warranted. I certainly concede that there are bad actors out there piggybacking on the popularity of ASMR with no regard for the larger community or art form. This will always be the case, regardless of the genre, so for the purposes of this discussion we are going to disregard them.
Many of us experienced ASMR for the first time in childhood, often with family members or teachers, and our triggers may be strongly tied to those initial innocent experiences. Thus, the thought of sexualising them or creating a sensual experience around them may seem repugnant. I recognise that as a valid concern, and counterargument against, sensual ASMR. However, I don’t feel this has to be an all or nothing situation. Individuals often maintain platonic friendships and familial relationships, while simultaneously having a romantic, intimate partnership. Each of these relationships fulfils a different human need, and all are equally important.
In his seminal work, A Theory of Human Motivation, psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a five-tiered hierarchy of human needs. Positing that some needs, such as food and water, take precedence over others and must be somewhat met in order for an individual to focus on the next level of needs. He considered sex, or the physical act of sexual intercourse, to be one of the most foundational human needs on par with food, water, and air. Intimacy, intimate relationships, the giving and receiving of affection and love, those were all categorised as Love/Belonging needs and form the third-tier of the hierarchy. Following only physiological (tier 1), and safety needs (tier 2) in importance.
One of the takeaways from Maslow’s theory is that humans need intimacy, love, and affection. These needs can be met platonically by a mother’s love, or a friend’s affection. They can also be met by the sensual embrace of a lover. More often than not, we need all of the above because we take something different, yet equally important, from each of those encounters. Just as listeners receive something different, yet equally important, from both traditional and sensual ASMR. By acknowledging that sensuality is a vital need of the human experience, and welcoming ASMRtists who minister to that need, the community can only grow in strength and efficacy. In the end, we all have the same goal which is to bring love, light, and comfort to those who listen.