China's Latest Censorship Crackdown Target: Videos Of Women Rubbing, Kissing And Licking Binaural Microphones
from the whisper-sweet-nothings-in-my-ear dept
A few weeks back, we wrote about some unpublished censorship guidelines that provided insights into what the Chinese government is trying to stamp out online. However, one of the more curious activities whose depiction was forbidden was “vulgar use of a microphone controller”. That seemed both surprisingly specific, and yet tantalizingly vague. A new post on Abacus News may explain what was meant by that phrase. It reports on yet another censorship move by the Chinese authorities:
the country’s anti-pornography office ordered a number of platforms to remove a lot of ASMR content — because they say some are akin to softcore porn.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is defined by Wikipedia as follows:
a term used for an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia. ASMR signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control.
The banned videos in China typically show people — well, nearly always young women — whispering into special high-quality binaural microphones that aim to capture audio the same way our ears hear sounds. As well as producing extremely realistic results, the microphones also allow sounds to move from one ear to the other — best experienced with headphones to enhance this effect — as if the person speaking is right next to you, and moving around very close to you.
The women in the videos whisper, rather than speak, because it has been found to be the most effective way to produce ASMR’s characteristic “tingling” sensation. But ASMR videos also include the sounds of people licking, kissing, and rubbing the microphones in various ways — which may explain that “vulgar use of a microphone controller” the Chinese authorities want to censor. As a representative example, the Abacus News points to a two-hour long YouTube video of one of the ASMR stars in China, Xuanzi Giant 2 Rabbit:
In the video, she speaks softly into an ear-shaped microphone, taps it, covers it in plastic, even rubs a Q-tip inside it, creating a variety of sounds to trigger ASMR.
But she does it while dressed in the revealing outfit of Mai Shiranui from The King of Fighters, and whispers things like “Husband, your highness, do you have any instructions?” In another clip, wearing the same outfit, she strikes a provocative pose on the bed.
ASMR is even referred to as “in-skull orgasm” by many Chinese internet users, highlighting the sexual image of some videos.
It’s not hard to see why China’s anti-pornography department might want to block this kind of thing. However, as a short video by The New York Times exploring the phenomenon makes clear, mainstream ADMR is rather different from these Chinese variants. The aim is to relax rather than excite, and to tap into what may be a calming physiological response similar to that produced when animals groom each other. In any case, the Chinese attempt to censor ASMR videos seems pretty hopeless:
After hearing about this crackdown, we tried to search by the keyword “ASMR” on some of China’s biggest streaming platforms, like Bilibili and Douyu. The searches yielded no results. But the videos still appear if you go directly to the playlists of many ASMR hosts. And since they’re not banned in the West, many are available on YouTube.
This probably means we can expect yet another Chinese crackdown on ASMR videos at some point in the future, and yet another failure to eradicate that “vulgar use of a microphone controller”.