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Discovering ASMR (and its inevitable pornography)

The world of fetishisms is immense to say the least. While very few people are complete fetishists, which is to say, capable of finding pleasure exclusively through one very specific sensorial stimulation – each one of us has a few quirky preferences. Some of them are pretty common, like feet or high heels, some quite rare (dendrophilia, anyone?), and some downright unbelievable to others, such as objectophilia. Their range is wide enough to fill a book, and definitely puzzling to those looking for an unified theory of fetishism.
My well-educated guess is that they always originate in the casual and unconscious association of a pleasant sensation with a specific stimulus, as proven by the famous case of one man with the improbable and extremely selective fetishism for a certain textile. To cut the story short, one day he found out that that particular type of weaving, color, etc. had been used for the uniforms of the nurses who took care of him as a preemie in the incubator, when they represented his sole human contact. In less exceptional instances, fetishisms are triggered by whatever stimulated us during our first orgasms – usually pictures or descriptions of erotic content, fantasies, or even the smells of the places where we masturbated. Most of us sought out to repeat the exact same experience, unwittingly contributing to a classic positive reinforcement feedback: the more you like it, the more you do it, and vice versa. And voilà, there you have the textbook definition of a fetishism.

There are exceptions, however. One is the willing instillation of such an instinctual response. An experiment has shown, for example, that just seeing any random picture before a sexy one effectively results in a measurable arousal on subsequent exposures to that imagery. A practical application of this mechanism is routinely seen in Japanese kikaku porn, featuring very bizarre scenarios, props or acts in the hope of creating the next big erotic genre out of nothing – as it famously happened in 1998 when director Kazuhiko Matsumoto hit on the bukkake motherlode.
Still, the most interesting possibility is also the rarest of them all. It happens when someone reveals an inexplicable sexual predilection for something, unwittingly inspiring scores of similarly obsessed fetishists to come out. The internet, of course, made these instances relatively more common. One example from about a decade ago was the discovery of pedal pumping, watching a woman fruitlessly push on her car’s gas pedal to get the vehicle unstuck from mud or ice pits: the overnight industry of tailor-made videos briefly became the highest income porn genre, bar none.  And, since 2010, it is now the turn of ASMR.

ASMR stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’, a difficult-to-explain “brain orgasm” consisting of a pleasant tingle in your scalp that travels down the spine triggering an intense sense of well-being – and yes, sometimes even an actual orgasm. If it wasn’t strange enough, wait until you hear how some lucky people achieve this nirvana condition. The trick seems to be exposed to very light, repetitive stimulation… like listening to a droning whispered talk (even in a foreign language), watching cyclical movements or even just someone extremely focused on something. Other sources of zen-like pleasure can be the noise of crumpled paper, drawing many perfectly parallel lines, almost imperceptibly moving a finger back and forth in the air, imagining having your hair cut, ear cleaning and many more.
Early studies of the phenomenon point to the induction of alpha waves in the brain, a state typical of meditation or the phase immediately preceding sleep. Most neurologists and psychologists are undecided on the mechanism, or even on its reality. Whatever the reason is, a worldwide online community of  fans popped up anyway, with people making and exchanging videos designed to elicit ASMR. But we all know what happens with Web-based communities: after a little while, they all start dividing and falling apart.

What started as a completely nonsexual hobby was rapidly turned upside-down by the realization that some enthusiasts did in fact achieve actual orgasms watching the very chaste videos uploaded to YouTube by their peers. Besides the vocal radicals who campaigned to keep ASMR “clean” and those who began experimenting in search of their ideal video, the news predictably attracted lots of curious to the formerly idyllic forums of the community. As you can imagine, not all of them behaved: trolls, juvenile humor and a few mean prank put the Olympic calm of the true believers to the test.
The latest development however came only very recently, thanks to porn director Nica Noelle, who quit the hypocrisy around ASMR and started producing actual erotic versions of the typical induction videos. Truth to be said, they probably won’t ever get in the YouPorn top ten: the ASMR version of porn is very, very gentle and subdued – but judging from the comments they receive (and the inevitably randy comments to regular videos), this is exactly what an impressive number of people were desperately looking for. It is too early yet to see whether the ASMR genre will fizzle out of existence like many other fads, stand the test of time, and which version between family and adult will ultimately get the most followers. In the meantime, find a quiet spot, put your headphones on and try the below video: wouldn’t it be fun if you were one of the few lucky “braingasmers” out there?

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Number of transgendered persons in the industrialized countries (aged between 18 and 60): 1 on 2,500



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