Brain Massage

ASMR and the Rise of the Whisper Fetish

There’s no nudity, only a soft whisper that gives you a euphoric, almost orgasmic, sensation. This is the erotic world of ASMR videos.

Nick Koudis/Getty,Nick Koudis

"The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Sit back, relax, close your eyes, and listen to my soft voice. Let your mind wander as I whisper sweet nothings into your right ear, then in your left ear. Feel your scalp tingle as my voice gently surprises you from behind. I tell you about my day in a sultry cadence. It's the meter of my words that gives you goose bumps. I describe the pink hued iridescent bubbles in the bathtub, and the way they glide away from my skin as if it's made of silk. Though I don't let you see it, you can hear the water ripple. It sounds like you're in the bathtub with me as I describe the back massage I am about to give you.

I performed a twenty minute ASMR video. ASMR stands for "autonomous sensory meridian response.” It was one of the few custom videos I kept my clothes on for. The video was less about seeing me and all about hearing me: I was a talking head with audio aides around my laptop. Prepared with paper to rustle, rice to shake, and water to ripple. I would whisper to the right and left of the microphone (I even walked around it), and rock back and forth in my chair to create a distance in the sound of my voice. It wasn't one of the craziest things I've done, but it might have been the most unique.

My ASMR video would have had a PG-13 rating. There was no nudity, only suggestive language. A viewer would have seen my body from the shoulders up, while I remained fully clothed in a black spaghetti strap tank. As I whispered into the microphone, I toyed with my top's straps and ran my fingers through my hair. Nothing a girl couldn't do in a coffee shop. The focus was my voice and the words gently ushered from my lips.

While there is little research to explain this phenomenon, people, and scientists, are trying to figure out why it makes them feel so good. Certain audio triggers a sensory response that users describe as orgasmic in a cerebral sense. This is not physical. ASMR artists use words and sounds to create a soothing image. Most users claim the videos help ease anxiety and reduce insomnia. They call it a brain massage.

Spike Jonze's new movie Her not only toys with the concept of being attracted to a voice, but falling in love with it. Scarlett Johansson is the Siri-like voice that lonely heartbroken writer Joaquin Phoenix develops a relationship with. He responds to her voice with a cerebral passion, as if she were real. Jonze tells FilmLinc Daily, "I think of how much of my daily interaction is with and through technology... and it's an emotional experience too." A voice alone can command power, affection, and sex appeal.

With outlets like Reddit and YouTube, people are less shy about sharing their fetishes. Maria, who uploads to YouTube as Gentle Whispering, is considered one of the top ASMR artists. She has the numbers to prove it. Of her 174 uploads, most have tens to hundreds of thousands of views, but this video alone has over four million views. When I needed to learn how to perform an ASMR clip, it was her uploads that I looked to for inspiration.

Most people use ASMR for relaxation purposes, but because of the intimate nature of the experience there can be an erotic quality as well. While Maria's video is intended to help ease anxiety, there were a few who also found it sexually appealing though the camera never strays below her shoulders. She is an attractive girl with nice facial features, blonde hair, and big blue eyes. Perhaps it's the way she paws at the camera with a perfectly manicured hand, or the way she brushes her face with a peacock feather that makes some find her video so irresistible. It could also be her expertly guided whispers into the microphone or the way she blows into it, gifting the listener with the illusion of feeling her breath.

Some, like this YouTube user below, often get annoyed when things get sexual in the comments:

Logan Magee A message to the pervy guys: we DONT want to know if you want to have a with her, or if you got a boner from this. That's actually really offensive and rude. So please stop. Sincerely, The reasonable, smart people watching and enjoying this video. 

Most of the ASMR clips feature attractive young women. Obviously, sex appeal is a factor. Sure ASMR clips can put you to sleep and help stave off insomnia, maybe even get rid of that nasty headache you've had for days. But ASMR clips have an undeniable eroticism. It's like some kind of neotantra. Sometimes, the void in our lonely world can be filled with a voice.