China cracks down on ASMR videos, branded as pornography

ASMR videos have almost completely disappeared from Chinese video platforms following an announcement from Beijing authorities in early June

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) –After a recent ban on hip-hop and goth fashion in media, Chinese censors are now cracking down on another aspect of pop culture, with online authorities now targeting ASMR videos.

China’s anti-pornography office made an announcement on June 8, that popular Chinese video streaming sites would have their hosted content assessed and scrubbed of “vulgar and pornographic content”specifically targeting ASMR. Over the past few weeks, ASMR videos have almost entirely disappeared from host sites like Youku, Bilibili, and Kuaishou in the country.

ASMR, an acronym for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” refers to the curious tingly, and for some people, pleasurable sensation that can radiate from the base of the skull and down the spine and shoulders when certain senses are stimulated.

The label ASMR also refers to a certain genre of video online where streamers whisper into very sensitive microphones and often manipulate various items to stimulate listeners’ auditory nerves, and potentially their sensory memory, which for many elicits the tingly ASMR sensation.


Video still of ASMR video using a make-up brush (Wikimedia Commons)

Some things commonly included in ASMR videos are audio recordings of scalp massages, hair brushing, eating foods or rubbing various fabrics across the microphone, while the streamer speaks in a light, soothing whisper.

According to the Chinese media outlet CGTN, the tingly ASMR sensation, which can be somewhat euphoric depending on the individual, has been called an “attention-induced head orgasm.”

CGTN notes a report on ASMR video audiences in the U.S. and Europe. Which says that 82 percent of them use the ASMR videos as sleep aids, and 70 percent use them to lower stress, while 5 percent reportedly use them for sexual stimulation.


ASMR sensation map (Wikimedia Commons Image)

Chinese censors are purportedly worried about the large number of young people who regularly enjoy ASMR videos. The claim that ASMR is “harmful to minors” is the only reasoning offered by the announcement of the crack-down.

More realistically and given concerns regarding China’s population, there is probably a fear that for the small percentage of people who do pursue ASMR content for sexual stimulation, that it will serve to ultimately dissuade them from seeking genuine sexual relationships if satisfaction is easily achieved with an internet connection and ASMR videos.

While some ASMR videos clearly cater to adult audiences, and include stimuli that is unmistakably erotic in nature (licking lips or ears, and speaking in sultry tones), most ASMR fans agree that the vast majority are ASMR videos are unrelated to sexual stimulation, and are purely for relaxation purposes.

However, the censors in Beijing are not drawing any distinction between the two, and online content labeled with “ASMR” appears to already be a thing of the past on the Chinese intranet.