Why paypal’s crackdown on asmr creators should worry you

This past week, nonsexual ASMR video creators Sharon DuBois (ASMR Glow), Scottish Murmurs, Creative Cal, and Rose ASMR have been permanently banned from PayPal and had their funds frozen for 180 days. Like with YouTube’s July censorship sweep, the women create videos of sound effects and have been expelled from the payment utility under alleged violations of the company’s sexual content policy prohibitions. ASMR community websites are now warning all creators to avoid PayPal. Engadget reached out to PayPal regarding the banning of ASMR video creators, the 8chan sex-harassment campaign and how PayPal plans to protect users from this type of abuse — but we did not hear back before publication time.

"Customer service and the positive resolution of buyer and seller issues are an important focus for PayPal.

Our customer service team is always available to help customers understand our policies to ensure compliance. Additionally, PayPal has no policy against autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) related content that does not otherwise violate PayPal Acceptable Use policy."

Capitalizing on entrenched and easily exploitable anti-sex policies by internet giant payment processors and a new internet sex panic ushered in by FOSTA, 8chan trolls have started a campaign to mass-report attractive women who make ASMR videos. Listing names of women making these sound-effect videos in a forum thread called " PayPal lowering the hammer on ASMRtits" they’ve declared war by posting links to report pages for PayPal, and called upon fellow haters to get the women kicked off YouTube and Patreon as well. They’re laughing at the women’s anguish over creating nonsexual content and losing their revenue streams, saying things like "another whore for the deep-freeze" — in between posting anti-Semitic and Pepe the frog images, of course.

If you’re unfamiliar with ASMR, it’s essentially a genre of videos where the creator makes sound effects in a variety of scenarios that are geared toward evoking a sense-memory of tingling sensations from the back of the head. If anyone ever played with your hair and you felt a funny but calming shiver, you get the idea. The performance artists in these videos do things to create sounds like playing with hair, brushing microphones with makeup brushes, chewing ice and lots of other things that evoke a feeling for viewers. Not everyone tunes into the sensations, but those who do find it very beneficial.

It may sound weird, but it’s quite popular — especially with people combating anxiety and insomnia. University research has found that these sound effects and their resultant physical trigger, ASMR ("autonomous sensory meridian response"), actually work. In June this year, the University of Sheffield’s department of psychology found that people who "use" ASMR showed significant reductions in heart rates, as well as lowering of stress and anxiety, and feelings of social connectivity.

"The study found that those who experience ASMR showed significantly greater reductions in their heart rates when watching ASMR videos (an average decrease of 3.14 beats per minute) compared to those who do not," wrote the researchers. "They also showed significant increases in positive emotions including relaxation and feelings of social connection."

Interesting facts about ASMR aside, what’s happening to women who make these videos is ugly, disturbing and harrowing. The systems in which ASMR videos are made possible and distributed (YouTube, PayPal, Reddit, Patreon and others) are still a dream come true for men who want to harm women. Conservative social media policing mores naturally conflate sexuality with women and LGBT people, while relying on discriminatory and anti-sex automation. It deepens the wound of trying to be a female or LGBT creator in a system that categorically doesn’t believe you or trust you.

YouTube and PayPal have long-held reputations of discriminatory practices around LGBT people and sexuality — and still do. It’s worse now with FOSTA, the law telling internet and online payment companies that practically anything can be considered sex work, and that sex work is "trafficking" — code for child prostitution. So this kind of targeted harassment suits anti-sex conservatives just fine, because it does the work for them of having to censor things that challenge their agenda. And again, these ASMR videos don’t even have nudity, simulated sex acts, erotica or anything we’d consider even borderline porn. It all boils down to women as sex objects (whether they like it or not) and an unhealthy fear of the sexual unknown.

The thing is though, the men purposely attacking the women making sound-effect videos don’t want to just harm them. Read the threads behind this harassment campaign and you’ll see that these guys actually want to destroy the women they’re harassing. It’s a trip into the mind-set of an incel who really wants to kill women, who thinks it’s heroic.

Update: After publication of this story, PayPal unbanned accounts belonging to Scottish Murmurs and Rose ASMR. Scottish Murmurs told Engadget via email, "Originally they cited ‘brand image’ as the reason for the ban and once questioned further they then decided it was due to ‘ olfac reasons’ without providing any proof. The whole thing was ridiculous."