ASMR could be considered a sexual kink for some, and it would be classified as a sexual fetish. However, some people participate in the same kink that doesn't consider it sexual. These people prefer to view it as simply a way to relax or alleviate stress or anxiety. Those individuals may still have certain sounds they find sexually stimulating, but they are careful not to use those sounds during sex with their partner(s). There's no reason not to classify it both ways; since there are two separate definitions for the word kink, the same is true for ASMR: ASMR could be classified both as a sexual kink and an auralism kink.
What is ASMR?
ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a term used to describe a pleasurable feeling elicited by specific stimuli (Poerio et al., 2018). Those who experience ASMR commonly report sensations of chills down their spine and neck, tingling of the arms and scalp, warmth in their extremities, and an overall sense of relaxation--feeling lighter, less anxious. People who experience ASMR may do so for numerous reasons; those who share it often have reported that it helps them fall asleep more easily at night, can serve as a natural sleep aid, help with stress relief, or help ease symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. Not everyone experiences ASMR to any degree; in fact, only about 20 percent of people say they've ever experienced any sensation that falls under that label at all, however, ASMR is not associated with sexual arousal (Poerio et al., 2018).
However, those experiencing ASMR as a sexual kink, becoming aroused through hearing certain sounds, just like with audio erotica/erotic literature, is genuine; there are a lot of videos on YouTube dedicated to pleasuring an audience through various visual and audio means.
What kind of people practices this kink?
ASMR is a kink widely practiced by people of any sexual orientation, although it can also be classified as an auralism kink (refers to someone who derives pleasure from hearing/hearing sounds), isn't uncommon in BDSM role play, where someone acts out their submissive or masochistic desires in an erotic way for others to watch. These scenarios are sometimes referred to as ASMR Role Play (Klausen, 2021), where people will dress up, act out different parts, and perform for others online or at public gatherings like dungeons.
There is some debate whether these two things fall under two separate definitions of kink or not. Some people say these two practices may be just considered one broad definition, while others say they're entirely different, with both falling under BDSM and general kinks. Unfortunately, there isn't enough research done yet to come to solid conclusions, so I will leave it up to you, dear reader!
Where does the sexual aspect come from?
The triggers, sounds, and physical sensations of ASMR all share similarities with sexual encounters. It may be more accurate to think of ASMR as a haptic or touch-related fetish than a sexual one (Klausen, 2021). The brain's response to stimuli on your skin–light touches, soft caresses, gentle scratching–is involuntary. Like you can't control whether or not you're turned on by someone whispering in your ear, you can't control whether or not ASMR turns you on.
Some people experience a kind of tingling rush when they watch another person receive pleasurable attention but do not experience any pleasure themselves. Other people will feel absolute pleasure while watching others being touched—possibly explaining why videos that focus primarily on non-sexual touch are so popular among ASMR enthusiasts, and the scientific research to support this isn't too specific. Each person experiences something different—what stimulates one person might not affect another. These individual responses are part of exploring sexuality, such as an intimate act; there is no objective way to judge what another person likes because we each have our quirks and preferences about how we want to be touched and stimulated.
How many different types of experiences are there?
There are two types of ASMR experiences. One is considered sexual, which starts at one or two points on a person's body (such as the head and neck), while one isn't. The first involves a person receiving personal attention, such as having their hair brushed or back massaged, from another person in a sensual manner. Sensual ASMR often involves body contact with another person (or multiple people) who is physically affectionate towards them.
The second experience involves watching someone carry out an ordinary task like gardening, watching an artist paint, or a chef making a meal; it doesn't involve physical contact between people. However, it provides a sense of calm and relaxation for the viewer. These types of experiences affect a person's body in different ways.
How can you experience it yourself?
If you are curious about ASMR as a kink, you can experience it by finding a partner interested in experimenting with ASMR roleplay sex games or purchasing an ASMR sex toy. These can still provide sexual pleasure but won't distract from each other's enjoyment of intimacy. Then, of course, there are many ways to experience it for yourself. Some prefer having ASMR provided to them while they're masturbating while others don't enjoy masturbating alone; or as a couple depending on how comfortable you feel explaining what gets you off when masturbating (and your partner doesn’t mind being asked these questions).
Another option is seeking out a consensual partner willing to perform sensual ASMR. Don't worry if neither option sounds appealing because, most importantly, remember: Safe, consensual sex between adults of consenting age isn't wrong or taboo--so long as nobody gets hurt physically or emotionally.
I've found that these definitions have no bearing on one another. The classification of an ASMR kink is a purely subjective judgment by someone who finds themself aroused or sexually stimulated by sounds that may be experienced in everyday life. Most people find themselves attracted to sexual stimulation based on what they experience. This personal preference becomes part of our cultural history as we continue to build upon it over time. Our understanding of our bodies has become more accepting and tolerant of things seen as abnormal or immoral just a few decades ago.
Whatever your passion or kink, your experiences are of your own accord, as long as you practice safely and responsibly. I've included references below for your own research, as per usual.
Play safe, my friends.
Klausen, H. B. (2021, July 16). View of ASMR explained: Role play videos as a form of touching with the eyes and the ears: First Monday. View of ASMR explained: Role play videos as a form of touching with the eyes and the ears | First Monday. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/11691/10215
MacIntosh, K. (2018, March 25). ASMR, explained One man’s trash is another man’s whispered unboxing video. The Varsity. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://thevarsity.ca/2018/03/25/asmr-explained/
Poerio, G. L., Blakey, E., Hostler, T. J., & Veltri, T. (2018). More than a feeling: Autonomous Sensory Meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PLOS ONE, 13(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196645
Sang, Z. (2017, October 30). ASMR and What It Reveals About Your Personality. The nerve blog. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://sites.bu.edu/ombs/2017/10/30/asmr-and-what-it-reveals-about-your-personality/