I used to have trouble sleeping, so I’d do what most people do when they have trouble sleeping: surf the Internet. This, of course, takes you down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos and suggested videos. One minute you’re watching Britney Spears videos, trying to pinpoint the exact moment her eyes got wonky and then BOOM! Next thing you know, you’re sucked into the world of stillborn baby tribute videos (don’t look, please) and therapeutic massage how-to videos.
Which is where I found this woman. Her name is Athena Jezik and she’s a craniosacral massage therapist, whatever that is. All I know is that her videos sucked me in and made me very, very relaxed.
The way she says “occipital base,” “dural tube” and “coxis” made my brain tingle. So every night, I would watch these Athena Jezik non-sexual, educational massage therapy videos and fall right asleep.
So then one recommended side panel massage video led to another, which eventually led to THIS:
What the hell is going on here? This girl is role-playing massage parlor? By herself? On video? In a whisper voice? This is so weird! I mean, why? What is the point? She’s actually rubbing the camera microphone, pretending to massage my scalp?
Why is, oh…oh, that’s nice. That’s…nice. Her voice is so calming. It’s so…relaxing. So…what is, I don’t know how…zzzzz.
The next night I watched another one. I felt a little weird. Like, pervy. I have no problem watching porn — because you know why you’re there. It’s like, “Here it is, here’s my vagina and these are the various things I’m going to put in it, ready, set, GO.” But this? This felt like I was some creepy Peeping Tom spying on an otherwise very nice, attractive young woman who was just carrying about her business as a massage therapist. Or a… hair brusher?
She loves brushing my hair. It’s a bit knotty. But that’s fine, we’ll get those knots out. We’ll get those…knots…out.
Okay, woah. What is this? What is happening? I had to google.
What I discovered truly blew my mind. I thought I had discovered all the weird things there was to discover on the internet and within subcultures (docking, body modification suspension, furries, and my personal favorite, object sexuality). But I had never heard of ASMR.
Apparently, ASMR stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.” This “response” can basically be described as “brain tingles,” something that only some people can experience; either you can, or you can’t. It’s something that you may have experienced at the hair salon when someone is washing or brushing your hair. Or when your grandma used to scratch your back on the couch (my grandma used to scratch my back on the couch). Or watching Bob Ross paint clouds as a kid on PBS. At some point, someone caught on that there are certain things that trigger this relaxing sensation and set out to bottle it up for consumption. YouTube was the perfect vehicle.
Most of these videos feature attractive young women, many with accents, speaking softly into the camera. One of the most popular ASMR video-makers (as of today, 69,227 subscribers and 23,353,325 video views) is Gentle Whispering. She explains that the secret to ASMR is people feel cared for at a very intimate level. “Mostly it’s because of the personal attention that you give the viewer,” she explains in one video, “and you can do that by maybe examining them, maybe looking at them naturally, maybe being taken away by their beauty, too. Because you look so nice. Your eyebrows cover your face so perfectly. Your skin is so soft, so silky smooth. Your whole face is really just perfect!”
Clearly it doesn’t really matter what is said. I’m not sure how perfect my eyebrows, in fact, cover my face, but I don’t care. Because SOMEONE IS BEING NICE TO ME AND I LIKE THAT. And my brain tingles and I am relaxing and feel like I’m melting and zzzzzz. Apparently this has become such a thing that there is now a push to research just why exactly this happens. Why can some people experience “brain orgasms,” as they’re also called, and some just can’t? How can this be used as real therapy? There’s definitely an element of self-hypnosis and meditation going on here.
Obviously the biggest factor in ASMR is sound. Hardcore ASMRers will buy binaural microphones so that they can record their videos in “3D.” You know, when you listen to headphones and the sound flips from one ear to another? I tried headphones with this weirdo cotton ball video and DEAR GOD, TINGLES GALORE.
From everything I’ve read, ASMR is not meant to be have a sexual element, only a relaxing one. But we all know that someone somewhere is furiously fapping to Ms. Czech Republic and her cotton balls.
But that’s not my problem. Because goddamn, for the first time in a long time, I could sleep.
I could sleep to bags crinkling:
I could sleep to close-up mouth whispering:
I could sleep to nails tapping and book scratching.
I especially like nails tapping.
This was fantastic. Totally, totally weird. But fantastic.
I did some looking into if there were any men who created ASMR videos. There are… but they just don’t have the same effect. For me, at least. I think that there is a nurturing and sensual element that women ASMR video-makers have that men just lack. And it’s just really, really hard for a man to whisper soothing things and not come off… well, creepy. Maybe there is, but I haven’t seen it yet.
I did find this one to use as an example of male ASMR uber-creepiness. And for the first five minutes and twenty-one seconds of this video, I thought he was serious. But then Mr. Tinglemittens appeared.
I pretty much found my new boyfriend.