Discovering ASMR

When I was a child, my female friends and I went through a stage where we would play criss-cross applesauce with each other. If you’ve never heard of the game, it involves tracing your hands across your partner’s back in a manner that produces a tingly feeling on nape of the neck. Though we eventually grew out of it, as I got older I noticed that certain sounds—usually those associated with cleaning—would produce a very similar feeling, although slightly different: The sensation would often extend to the back of my head.

I didn’t think much of it until I was in my late teens. 

This video from Gentlewhispering received over 4 million views in 2013

At the convenience store where I worked, once every month or so an older gentleman would come in to examine our stock of chewing tobacco. He would  say hello, and produce a little feather duster from his suitcase. He then whisked the circular plastic tobacco canisters, randomly checking some of them for freshness. As he shuffled through them, they would make a clicking noise. The routine always sent a relaxing and pleasurable pulse up through the neck and into the back of my head.

Although I knew it wasn’t a sexual feeling, and I am perfectly secure with my sexuality, I still never bothered to tell anybody about it. It was embarrassing.

Fast-forward to last year, when I was looking for relaxation videos on Youtube to help me get past a bout of insomnia. After wading through a series of repetitive meditation videos, I found a video from vlogger Gentlewhispering, entitled Relaxing Physical Therapist Visit. In the video, an attractive woman with a lovely voice role-plays as a health care employee, bringing the viewer through the first-person experience of getting a check-up. The video gave me that familiar tingly feeling, though I still found it weird. I visited her profile page, where I was introduced to the term ASMR. This stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

ASMR is a new term, and the validity of it is still contested. The online ASMR community has grown considerably in the last few years, and a remarkable number of vloggers have turned up on Youtube, making videos that claim to trigger one’s ASMR. Other popular ASMRtists include ASMRrequests, Heather Feather, and VisualSounds1. Common triggers include tapping, whispering, and rubbing noises. Although it is said that not everybody experiences it, I don’t feel strange about it anymore. And I sleep like a polar bear. 


Kristopher Bras is a 35 year old Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995. Kristopher is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games.
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