It starts with a girl. She’s pretty, sitting in what looks to be her bedroom, in front of a large microphone. She’s whispering. It’s comforting and almost sensual. If that’s your thing. It’s at the point where she pulls out a random selection of objects and starts tapping them, on or close to the mic, that a lot of people might switch off.
Not me! I like these sounds. There’s this amazing tingling sensation that starts on the top of my head and creeps down my neck. Certain sounds and visual stimuli trigger it more than others, and it often helps me get to sleep. Welcome to the world of ASMR. Autonomous sensory meridian response is a real phenomenon, but among the scientific community, it seems there’s still much to learn.
Regardless, from the start of its inception to the mainstream, ASMR has made its home on YouTube and there it has stayed and grown to epic proportions. Popular ASMR artists such as GentleWhispering and Gibi ASMR have over one million followers and that growth doesn’t appear to be slowing down, with new ASMR artists cropping up on the platform daily.
Let’s speak frankly: I’m sure, that some people find this content erotic or sensual. While most ‘ASMRtists’ claim it’s not the intention, intent doesn’t really dictate what people get off on. Most female artists attract huge fanbases, very similar to the cam community and some of the more popular artists do ‘roleplay videos’ with an ASMR twist. Regardless of all this, it all seems harmless enough. I’ve seen people get away with more, or try to on YouTube and this is hardly what I’d call NSFW, though your colleagues may have some questions.
Despite that, it hasn’t stopped the Puritans at YouTube and now, PayPal, from taking a shot at this growing industry. Over the past year (and reaching a fever pitch in July) an increasing number of ASMR accounts have had their videos demonetised by YouTube for containing “nudity or sexual content”. By and large, the users being targeted are women and it’s for content that it’d be a real stretch to call “sexual” (call me naïve, but ya girl also makes porn for a living, so I’d like to think I’m a pretty good judge).
There’s always been a ‘sex panic’ on the internet and by far its biggest supporter has been PayPal. They’ve had a long history of banning and freezing the funds of anyone with even a tenuous link to the adult industry. Living now, in a post-SESTA/FOSTA world – a piece of US legislation that defines anything even vaguely pertaining to ‘sex work’ as potential ‘sex trafficking’ – websites and big service providers are running scared. Rather than investigate the nuances of the content on their platforms or the customers making use of their services, they’d rather get trigger happy with the ban function and protect themselves at the expense of people’s livelihoods. This new and more conservative internet targets and impacts women abundantly more than men. That’s just a fact. And whether you enjoy watching porn or experiencing ‘brain tingles’, these changes also impact you and your ability to find, consume and pay for the content you enjoy online.
At the time of writing, PayPal seems to have restored the accounts of ASMR Artists impacted, such as ASMR Glow, who spoke out about the issue on Twitter. But a brief search online shows that other services such as YouTube and Fiverr are still a source of concern for creators.