In the following sections, background information that lays the foundation of the girlfriend roleplay ASMR phenomenon will be presented. The information regards the topics of digital society, traditional intimacy, digital intimacy, ASMR and girlfriend roleplay ASMR.
We live in a digital age where almost every aspect of life and society has a digital element to it. Most people have a smartphone, most people take part in social networks, most people are connected and most people consume some form of media in their everyday life. In today’s world, it is difficult to completely discard the processes of digitalization that permeates almost every aspect of the world (Lindgren 2017). Digital society is, according to Lindgren, the result of when media meets society. By digital society, Lindgren points to the society being affected by digital networks, communication tools and online platforms. For example, different applications and online platforms, such as YouTube, have emerged and enabled new ways of communicating with others.
The technology and digitalization are rapidly developing and hence constantly changing structures in society. Digitalization has penetrated our lives, our culture and our relationships. The Internet, for instance, shapes and structures the society in undeniable ways. New phenomena arises and old phenomena change. These new phenomena, ASMR included, reorganizes people’s way of thinking and behaving. The trend of increased single households in society leads to a shift in people’s needs where people make use of the digital space, such as chatting online, instead of physically meeting (Lindgren 2017). This could result in people choosing digital options instead of physical presence which in turn can give rise to new ways of relationship building and dating online. Digitalization has therefore made its mark on the concept of intimacy and relationships.
The tendency of people seeking new ways to interact through the screen shows no signs of stagnating, rather it is increasing. Due to the digitalization presence and continued subsistence, it is of high importance to research in fields affected by digitalization in order to comprehend the current state of society and the digital landscape that surrounds us.
The meaning and the experience of intimacy are highly subjective and hence at the risk of being contradictory, which is something one needs to take into account when explaining and defining intimacy. Intimacy is personally experienced and therefore has a multitude of meanings and functions. It encompasses a vast spectrum of feelings, interactions and practices and can be found in relationships between people as well as between people and things (Sadowski 2016). Intimacy has traditionally been described as privacy, closeness and familiarity (David & Cembre 2016). According to Sadowski (2016), the concept of intimacy is usually associated with sex and sexuality. However, intimacy, in general, describes close relations with someone or something. It requires certain knowledge and access to someone or something and is dependent on mutuality. Further, it requires a two-way connection.
Due to the digitalization process currently present in society, intimacy has transcended into the digital landscape. Sadowski (2016) states that digital intimacy is a form of remediated intimacy. Intimacy has spread into the online sphere and has therefore transformed and restructured how it is performed and narrated. As a result of digitalization, people are now able to reach out to a mass audience through the Internet. This opens up for new ways of forming relationships and staying connected with people all around the world (Lindgren 2017). The aspect of immediacy in communication is an apparent element in digital intimacy and opens up for staying connected regardless of time and space. One must not physically meet to establish relationships and to be close and intimate with people. For example, dating apps, such as Tinder, open up new channels to meet people, form relationships and establish intimacy (David & Cembre 2016)
The digitalization ability to reach out to a mass audience has enabled channels of one-way communication. The one-way communication can assign the communication elements of non-mutuality since it lacks the interactive aspect of communication. Moreover, one-sidedness enables the lack of having access to someone or something. These elements distinguish digital intimacy from traditional intimacy. Further, due to the immediate aspect of digital intimacy, one can question if it generates as deep and personal relationships as the traditional kind. Moreover, another aspect is if digital intimacy could disrupt the traditional kind (David & Cembre 2016).
Digital intimacy could be interpreted as a phenomenon where digital platforms create a co-presence. This can be found in parasocial relationships, which are defined as « pseudo-intimate relationship between the audience and media personalities » (Lim & Kim 2011 p. 767). This describes relationships that are developed by the audience towards media personalities that they most likely only have seen through the screen. Over time, the audience can develop a bond with the media personality that can mirror social interactions in real life (Rasmussen 2015, Hartmann 2016).
These types of parasocial relationships can also arise in girlfriend roleplay ASMR videos. The viewers can feel personally addressed by the ASMRtist even though the ASMRtists is addressing and talking to a mass audience. However, due to the structure of girlfriend roleplay ASMR videos, the viewer can experience the encounter as mutual, even though it is most likely not. This can give the viewer an illusion of mutual awareness (Rasmussen 2015, Hartmann 2016). Moreover, there is the distinction of traditional intimacy requiring knowledge and access about the other, whereas, in the example of girlfriend roleplay ASMR videos, the ASMRtist most probably does not have any knowledge of nor access to the viewer (Rasmussen 2015).
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and could be defined as a pleasant feeling or experience characterized by a tingling sensation caused by various audio and visual stimuli. The feeling of ASMR might be triggered by soft sounds, whispering and expressions of care, interest and affection (Andersen 2014. Poerio 2016, Sadowski 2016). In the ASMR community, this is commonly called « ASMR triggers » and is usually accompanied by a sense of calmness and relaxation (Poerio et al 2018). This can give relief from anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and clinical depression (Bjelić 2016, Poerio et al 2018, Ahuja & Ahuja 2019).
Bjelić (2016) claims that ASMR relies on the social practice of already existing needs of feeling loved, cared for and thought of. These needs have been attempted to find in digital technology through digital intimacy. ASMR is then just another layer, or another example, of something that is already happening in the field of digital intimacy. People have always sought certain needs on the Internet and through digital intimacy. ASMR hence constitutes a new form of attempting to fulfilling those needs online.
The concept of ASMR was coined in 2010 (Bjelić 2016, del campo & Kehle 2016, Iossifidis 2017) and since the last decade, there has been an online community dedicated and committed to create and exchange videos that pursuit the feeling of ASMR (Andersen 2015). The ASMR community today mainly centers on the social media platform YouTube (Andersen 2015, Gallagher 2019) and the creators of ASMR are called ASMRtist (Poerio et al 2018). By the name, one could argue that the creation of ASMR is perceived as a form of artistry. It requires talent, engagement and dedication to pursue good-quality ASMR. This artistry is rewarded with loyal viewers and fans that support the ASMRtist (Andersen 2015, Gallagher 2019). Some examples of popular ASMR videos are simulations of massages, haircuts and medical examinations (Poerio et al 2018). In these videos the ASMRtists plays a role, such as a masseuse or a hairdresser, and performs the procedure as if they are performing it on the viewer. In the videos, the camera stands for the face of the person being taken care of which could equate to the viewer of the video.
As a phenomenon, ASMR positions itself in several contexts and situations; it shows people’s intimate relationships with networked devices, the rise and formation of online communities, collective identities and alternative ways of relationships and relationship building. These different contexts show the importance of the meaning of ASMR in society (Gallagher 2019).
Sadowski (2016) states that there is a high degree of diversity within the ASMRtistry. However, the group of ASMRtists who create the majority of the videos and are the most appreciated tend to be white, young, good-looking, English-speaking and able-bodied women. These women also tend to be the ones receiving media attention the most.
Girlfriend Roleplay ASMR
When researching for girlfriend roleplay ASMR, the study encountered a lack of scientific research on the phenomenon. There is some scientific research conducted on the topic of ASMR, but not specifically on girlfriend roleplay ASMR. However, various websites and news articles cover some parts of the uninvestigated topic. Social media and news pages rapidly pick up new trends and phenomena, in contrary to scientific research and, therefore, information regarding girlfriend roleplay ASMR in this study is mainly gathered from news pages and websites.
New York Times states that girlfriend (and boyfriend roleplay) videos have been on YouTube for five years at least and is a growing genre within ASMR (Wylde 2019). Nugent (2018) also writes that there is an increasing trend of girlfriend (and boyfriend) roleplay ASMR videos. Emma Jensen (2018) writes in an article published in November 2018 that a new type of video has emerged on YouTube. In these videos, women speak to their « boyfriend », which in these cases is roleplayed as the viewer of the videos. The videos commonly feature whispering or speaking softly to please the viewer. According to Sadowski (2016), girlfriend roleplay ASMR falls into the ASMR category of « romantic intimacy » where ASMRtists treat the viewer as an intimate partner. In these videos, the ASMRtists aim to uplift the viewer by showing care, love and attention.
Highsnobiety (2018) writes that relationship roleplay ASMR videos primarily focuses on the positive aspects of a relationship, where the relationship is equivalent to a companionship. Common elements are the implications of kissing and playing with one’s hair. But, there is another side of these roleplay ASMR videos, where the ASMRtist can roleplay an overly attached or jealous partner for example. There are also videos where the ASMRtists roleplays kidnapping their partner.
There has been some research conducted in the field of digital intimacy. Some of the topics that have been explored are online dating, online relationship building and parasocial relationships. In this chapter, a presentation of the previous research regarding ASMR conducted in the fields of digital intimacy, medicine and gender will be given.
The Field of Digital Intimacy
Sex, Intimacy and the Internet (Schnarch 1997) investigates the field of cyber dating and its relation to cyber intimacy. Schnarch argues that « cyber dating » is more inclined to preserve and perpetuate other-validated intimacy dependence rather than self-validated intimacy. The article reflects on the potential benefits of the Internet regarding what teachers, counselors and therapists might think is crucial when encouraging and facilitating intimate relationships. Further, the chapter Brave New World of Digital Intimacy in The Best Technology Writing 2009 (Thompson 2009) uses the example of social media, Facebook, in particular, to show the growth of « ambient intimacy » concerning people’s relationships. Through discussing people’s use of social media and how it shapes people’s relationships the author shows that the field of digital intimacy is changing and expanding.
Romance in Cyberspace: Understanding Online Attraction by Cooper and Sportolari (1997) speaks on electronic relating and how the phenomenon of electronic relation can contribute to positive interpersonal connections. Through an optimistic approach, the article discusses the structure of online relationships and argues that they facilitate warm interpersonal connections, including healthy romantic relationships. Moreover, Rasmussen (2018) studies parasocial interactions and parasocial relationships in the digital age. Through an examination of relationship-building concerning YouTube celebrities, Rasmussen argues that parasocial relationships are developing between YouTube celebrities and viewers.
Table of contents :
1.1 PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTION
2.1 DIGITAL SOCIETY
2.2 TRADITIONAL INTIMACY
2.3 DIGITAL INTIMACY
2.4.1 GIRLFRIEND ROLEPLAY ASMR
3. PREVIOUS RESEARCH
3.1 THE FIELD OF DIGITAL INTIMACY
3.2 THE FIELD OF MEDICINE
3.3 THE FIELD OF GENDER
3.4 THE CONTRIBUTION OF THIS STUDY
4. METHODOLOGY AND MATERIAL
4.1 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.2 RESEARCH TRADITION
4.3 SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS
4.3.1 VIDEO ANALYSIS
4.5 STRATEGIC SELECTION
4.6 YOUTUBE AS SEARCH ENGINE
4.7 SELECTION PROCESS
4.8 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
4.9 RESEARCH DILEMMAS
4.10 METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTION
5.1 OVERVIEW OF THEORIES
5.2 THE THEORY OF DRAMATURGY
5.2.1 FRONTSTAGE AND BACKSTAGE
5.3 THE MALE GAZE
5.3.1 THE SEXUALIZATION OF WOMEN
5.3.2 INTERNALIZED MALE GAZE
5.4 GENDER DISPLAYS
5.4.1 THE FEMININE TOUCH
5.4.2 LYING DOWN
6.1 SETTING AND PROPS
6.2 STORYLINE AND HAPPENINGS
6.3 EMOTIVE WORDS AND PHRASES
6.4 POSITION AND BODY LANGUAGE
6.5 APPEARANCE AND CLOTHING
7.1 THEATRICAL PERFORMANCES
7.2 IN THE EYES OF THE MALE
7.3 DISPLAYING GENDER