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WEIRD HONEY with Annelise Stabenau: ASMR

This installment of Weird Honey is dedicated to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). This topic is a wonderful intersection of sound, womyn, mystery, and magic. ASMR is a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to stimuli- most of which, I will add, is auditory. The bulk of ASMR experiences are facilitated through various YouTube channels/videos, which focus around certain scenes of stimuli to trigger these euphoric sensations in those susceptible. YouTubers or ‘GentleWhisperers’ use high-quality audio recording gear to create videos intended strictly be listened to through headphones.

It’s popular to ask, “Do you experience ASMR?”; But really, who cares? ASMR is wide-spread and totally lawless in the eyes of science. No lab or scientist has ever been able to explain or rationalize what all of ASMR’s followers are experiencing and why. So, rather than ask the polarizing question, “do or don’t you experience ASMR?” I propose, “What stimuli triggers pleasure for you? Which sounds give you sensations? With what sounds do you have associations? What gives you the tingles? When have you experienced sound in a way that can’t necessarily be explained by science? How do you experience sensory responses?”

To make ASMR even more interesting, the bulk of these videos and audio tracks intended to “trigger” the response, are made by women and composed of women who are almost always whispering and taking on a traditionally ‘fem’ role such as painting toes, brushing hair, speaking softly, massaging, applying makeup, etc. There is clearly something very soothing about the female voice here. So powerful, in fact, that it induces intense physical responses from listeners. What does this mean for women?? What forms of gendering are at play here?? What is the role of women in the soundscape? In this particular soundscape?



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