ASMR Intimacy and Touch during the COVID-19 Era

Before COVID-19, for years, we heard that the United States was experiencing a “sex apocalypse”. For this reason, in my dissertation I explored sociosexually violent and increasingly algorithmic “syncing issues” of this era’s U.S. landscape. In doing so, I found that, for decades, researchers like Field (2014) innervated the health harm(s) of touch hunger. Left untreated, touch starvation went endemic. Now, as people pretend COVID-19 is over, these two issues in tandem are especially concerning for immunocompromised folks. In this piece illuminated prior heart-breaks and self-realizations of feminine presenting millennial and Gen Z folks taking place in algorithmic spaces, documenting a contagious shift: their increasing sociosexual expectations for cishet men. Additionally, I found that they’re experiencing a post-Roe v Wade present-COVID-19 silver-lining: late-in-life realized queerness and neurodivergence(s). To tingle new nerves, I update these temporally distanced dissertation discussions, provocatively unmasking and putting them into close conversation with another distanced intimacy: ASMR. After taking the body politic’s temperature, I amplify that audio intimacies are filling intimacy gaps in the present-COVID-19 age.

Dr. Bernadette “bird” Bowen, she/they, Visiting Assistant Professor, Media, Journalism, & Film, Miami University

5 thoughts on “ASMR Intimacy and Touch during the COVID-19 Era”

  1. Fascinating research! The introduction to the critical media ecology model and ASMR through an institutional and structural lens was illuminating.

  2. Thank you, Linnea! Really appreciate your kind words and to see it sparked your interest.

    I make all my publications and forthcoming pubs freely available on my page available through my link tree:

    Or if tiktok is more your preference, my username is @bbiiirdbPhD there where I share more insights from my approach as well.

    In virtual solidarity,

    Dr. bird 🌻🐥🌞

  3. Wow! This was such an interesting presentation to listen to! I’ve never heard of the COVID-era envirusment before! As an autistic person myself, it was very interesting to learn about the intersections between neurodiversity, technology, and violence. One question: do you think that ASMR would be a less appealing form of intimacy if we fundamentally restructured our society into one that is no longer capitalist or colonial, or do you think it would still hold its appeal as a form of intimacy for neurodivergent people?

  4. Hi Martino!

    Thanks for this question. I coined the term envirusment over the last few years, so this makes sense 🌻🤓
    Love to hear that my work was intriguing for you! That’s a really great question. I can’t help but think that an “untouching touch” wouldn’t be so appealing if we didn’t live in such a sociosexually violent landscape. It’s kind of hard to even imagine a world so dramatically different from the colonially-founded capitalist-funded one we exist in now that I can really only say “I really do think so.” However, I’d love to see studies specifically about our community and ASMR. If you catch wind of any, please do let me know!

    Thanks again for this question 💛

  5. I really enjoyed your presentation! I haven’t seen much research exploring how digital intimacy has grown during COVID-19, and seeing you explore the structures that “encourage” these sort of para-social relationships has been very eye opening. As someone who turned to ASMR during lockdown to help with my feelings of loneliness, seeing research about the creation and impact of it is very interesting. Thank you!

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