This article was originally published by AskMen UK.

“Spending time just me and you, it’s the greatest thing I could ever imagine,” she whispers, laying down on the pillow and looking into my eyes. “You deserve to be loved.” Her words are explicitly intimate, and they mollify me. She’s so close that I can hear the soft lilt in her voice, the gentle clicking of her tongue. Only, I don’t know who she is. And this isn’t an intimate moment between the two of us – it’s one shared by over 900,000 other YouTubers.

This is ASMR – autonomous sensory meridian response – and its allure is a curious one. Most people are aware of the sensation of ASMR these days, and it is often used by people like me to help them sleep. Its pleasure is twofold: first there’s a physical sensation, an effervescing that begins at the crown of your head and spreads down your neck; then there’s the comfort, the feeling of being looked after by someone who cares about you.

Obviously some see the sexual connotations within the videos – pornographic ASMR is by no means an untapped market – but most “ASMRtists” insist their videos are not. It’s kind of like an aural Rorschach test – some see the soothing side, whilst others see the sexual. It is all things to all people: a sleep aid, a comfort blanket, a masturbatory tool, or simply a digital solution to physical loneliness.

If you were looking for something a little more tactile to help relieve stress, then perhaps a cuddle workshop is more up your street. The phenomenon has mostly taken off in America, with a cuddle buddy being a legitimate and somewhat lucrative career for those who don’t mind spooning strangers. One site, The Snuggle Buddies, charges £50 (about $60) an hour to cuddle in the UK, and you can spoon for as long as 10 hours. Kitty Mansfield runs cuddle therapy service, and says the appeal of a hug is about tactile connection: “Taking the time to slow down, connect and experience safe touch is a powerful experience. Touch helps create psychological and physical wellness, and touch deprivation can contribute to illness at many levels. It plugs the gap between massage and therapy.