A guy man stimulates his listeners with a makeup brush rubbing gently against a microphone.

Soft whispering, the crinkling of wrapping paper, the stirring of a bowl of soup… these are just a few of the many examples of auditory stimulation in the bizarre world of autonomous sensory meridian response, a.k.a. ASMR.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the phenomenon, which gained popularity during the dog days of the pandemic, when people were looking for just about anything to try and pleasure and amuse themselves at home.

ASMR refers to the feeling people get when they watch stimulating videos. Many describe the feeling as ‘tingles’ that run through their spine, while others claim that watching them can even send them to sleep.

The videos have flooded Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter X for years now, garnering literally millions of views. And with that, a queer subculture of ASMR was born, aptly coined “Gay-SMR”.

Guys began taking listeners on creepy (but supposedly stimulating) journeys such as “sleepovers with your gay best friend”, “after-work boyfriend cuddles”, and even “gay kidnapping” sagas. Drag queens like Alaska and Katya, and Willam, even jumped into the craze, and beauty influencers turned their makeup tutorials into whispering operas.

But now, with social media juggernaut TikTok monopolizing our idle time, “Gay-SMR” has exploded like never before. The search term “Gay asmr” has received over 39.7 million views on the social media app, which means the whispers, crinkles, and clinks from gay-themed content have struck a (spinal) chord, relaxing homos from coast-to-coast.

For example, in the below video by @thetomwho, we’re pleasured with the whispering narration of various gay-themed actions, such as the clinking of a lavender essential oil bottle, the application of some Chanel lip balm, and the scraping of pearls together on a “cute little bracelet”.

These are, of course, all underlined with seductive whispered “gay” phrases such as “Yaaaas queeeeeen.” He even gifts us with the sound of fingers through a wig, daring us to want more, with a softly-spoken, “Are you ready to get your wig snatched?”

In another video, a “gay dog” even makes an appearance, before we hear an ice-coffee sipping content-provider grace us with the clanking of some “gay jewelry…that makes you look even gayer.”

Another video by @blondieboyyy offers words of encouragement, like “keep going until daddy says stop.”

TikTok’er, @layahsanimatedstorytimes tells his coming out story in the next video, while gracing us with the sounds of raw chicken cutlets being sliced and cooked in a pan. We’re not exactly sure what the connection between the two is, but okay…?

In this video, below, we hear a shopper buying a… gay llama (???), including receiving the intricate sounds of the full check-out experience of the cash register, and packaging up the purchase in a bag.

“Lipstick…Lipstick…Lipstick,” is all we hear in the final video below from @gayboysammyasmr, as he shows off his makeup by over-accentuating the word over and over.

While ASMR has been around a long time (even possibly being described in classic literature by Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and others), our current understanding of it came about in 2007, when people in an online forum began discussing their experiences. But wasn’t until 2010, when YouTuber Jennifer Allen coined the term, that the whole thing really took off.

Cut to September 2020, when the term was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, defined as “1. a pleasant tingling sensation that originates on the back of the scalp and often spreads to the neck and upper spine, that occurs in some people in response to a stimulus (such as a particular kind of sound or movement), and that tends to have a calming effect”, and “2. something (such as someone whispering or brushing their hair) that triggers such a sensation”.

“Gay-SMR” has always been a part of the conversation, and while we can’t quite figure out why, we’re somehow glad it exists. After all, queer people need their sensory relaxation too, and why should we have to endure topics like baseball and monster trucks with our whispers, chewing, and lip-smacking?

Thanks to TikTok, it looks like we won’t have to.

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