The Strange, Subtle Matter of ASMR Erotica

There are exceptions. An ASMRist called Eduardo is popular among both women and gay men. His videos range from all types of role play, including “Naughty boyfriend,” “Shirtless boyfriend,” “Spanish boyfriend,” “Male burglar,” and “Hot Farting Stud With Bloated Gut.” (The strangest role-play video of his I came across was probably “Cursed To Dance In Ballet Outfit In Forest Searching For Witch Pt. 2.”) In these videos, Eduardo, who is bearded and deep-voiced, is often sitting in his bedroom, talking slickly into a black microphone. “You’re just too beautiful with your nice soft skin,” he says in one, before offering a series of kisses, the pucker of each one more potent-sounding and texture-rich than the last.

Even so, these videos force us to reconsider sexual dynamics. “What is most interesting about ASMR—whether erotic or not—is how it has the capacity to challenge heteronormative, ableist conceptions of sex,” Waldron said. She believes the phenomenon is more about feelings—closeness, understanding, pleasure—than bodies and identities. “ASMR erotica specifically is in a unique position where it may either address those questions head-on, or may replicate limiting ideas about sex and sexuality.”

One place that is happening is on Weird Erotic Tensions, or WET, a Soundcloud platform that was created in 2018 by Alexandra Zakharenko and features “sensual podcasts, spoken word, poetry, ASMR, field recordings, and explorations of sonic sexuality.” Where the idea of female desire has become almost weaponized on YouTube, platforms like WET push against this trend; the idea of gender is seemingly nonexistent. Zakharenko, who grew up in Russia but now lives in Berlin, said she sees ASMR as “a borderline between the explicit and submerged erotic, a zone of fantasies and excitement. It’s so much more tempting, intriguing, and intelligent than straight-up porn.”

WET belongs to a particular category of ASMR erotica—the sensuality is abstract, open to experimentation, and less stereotypical of the genre. It seems to be about excavating the sexual from the nonsexual. The mixes fuse a buffet of elements; WET’s most popular upload to date, “Zaumne – Élévation,” is an amalgam of pleasantries: falling rain, rustling leaves, a whispering voice, chimes.

The true appeal of ASMR erotica like WET, content that is more ambiguous in how it identifies, may be that it doesn’t discriminate: All a listener is left with is the seduction of a faceless voice or stray sounds, which greet the ear with an odd but welcoming familiarity and allow for a more sexually creative experience. I certainly found myself drawn to this form; it felt more like approaching a blank canvas—I could go anywhere I wanted. I wasn’t limited by the contours of Amy’s or Eduardo’s make-believe; I was free to make the experience my own. “It leaves a lot of space to complete a story, to imagine and create your own reality,” Zakharenko said. “I love the subtle matter of it.”

As wellness has become more commodified in the last decade, the appeal of this particular subgenre is obvious, a space that feels at once restorative and escapist, instructional but just as open to fantasy. Central to audio porn’s continued expansion—with websites like, say, Quinn, which allows amateur porn creators to upload recordings, and Dipsea, an app that produces erotic audio for people of all sexual identities and orientations—is ASMR erotica, crystallizing into a bright, wondrous form. Intimacy is the through line. Intimacy is also its most radical effect—both the content produced and the platform on which it’s produced not only amplify personal connection (between user and creator), but also intensify our overall relationship to technology and the devices we use to explore our most carnal desires, in ways we are just discovering.

That night in my room, watching and listening to ASMR Amy, I wasn’t quite transported in the way I’d hoped. Still, the illusion sticks. The sensory pleasures spur and excite—a virtual lick to the ear, a kiss to the neck. These videos collapse the emotional distance of a virtual encounter. Amy wanted me to feel as if I was right there with her, even as a laptop screen separated us. I never reached climax, but I felt close.

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