Recently, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the quite interesting and provocative guest for the hour was AshelyMadison.com founder and owner, Noel Biderman.
For those of you unaware of AshleyMadison.com, (good for you!!) it is essentially a dating website for “cheating” married spouses. The site assists those wanting an extramarital affair in the process… akin to secretly opening up the textbook for people taking a closed book examination.
AshleyMadison.com unabashedly proclaims to be the “most successful website for finding affairs and cheating partners,” boasting over 22 million members in 25 countries.
I can only conclude there are a lot of people taking closed book tests who prefer to secretly use their cheats sheet underhandedly. Humans just like cheating. Sneaky devils.
The first reaction of many towards Biderman and AshelyMadison.com is one of disgust. The name Noel Biderman and words such as scum, repulsive, sick, and messages relating ideas of how decadent the world has become are frequently found in the same sentence. Is that fair? For this is why I blog…to ask such questions. In a world where so many seek out extramarital affairs and one comes along to provide an easier and more efficient means to achieve it, well, are such labels warranted? Hmmmmm…
Let’s take a looksee at this among other things, shall we?
According to Biderman, “We can’t create consumption like most businesses. We can’t convince people to have an affair. We don’t try.
But we can provide a credible, confidential, avenue for people who want to have an affair. think about it: The traditional ways people went about have affairs were definitely not effective. They were having affairs in the workplace. Or they were having affairs within their circle of friends. Think about how well those tend to work out.
So our mission was to say that if you’re thinking about having an affair you’re not alone. It’s part of the human condition. We’ll help you meet someone and not get caught. If you want to be clandestine, we’re an intelligent choice.”
So Mr. Biderman, you are married with children, what if you caught YOUR spouse cheating on you?
“I would be devastated. But I would not blame a website or inanimate object.”
Touche’ oh soul less one. Or is he?
Damn there are so many different ways to go with this topic; we could discuss business ethics, sexuality, monogamy, marriage, polyamory, the list goes on people.
What I find most fascinating (and I find a LOT fascinating regarding this topic) about AshleyMadion and Biderman is the response he receives from so many.
As mentioned, emotionally charged words such as sick, twisted, reprehensible, etc… are used to describe this whole endeavor. And that is what fascinates me most….the self-righteous, indignant, disgusted response. Can’t we even think about it rationally for a moment before the indignation?
Here are a couple of examples of such responses taken from a blog after an interview with Biderman:
“…to all his followers/people who have signed up to Ashley Madison, hope karma comes your way very soon. This sort of thing just shows how messed up the world is becoming.
Or, even more succinctly:
“This guy is scum. You shouldn’t promote businesses that promote infidelity. Pathetic.”
Ok, I get it. “Cheating” sucks and devastates marriages.
Perhaps we can look at it from an analogous perspective. Heroine also sucks and devastates lives…no one, including Biderman, is arguing this point of it sucking and being devastating.
So just because we are against the use of heroine does not necessarily imply we are against giving clean needles to drug abusers to help stop the spread of disease. Likewise, we may not be for minors having sex yet it would be reasonable in the “real world” to want teenagers to have access to birth control. So does it not stand to reason that an argument can be made that people are going to cheat regardless -so Biderman provides a safer and, arguably, less destructive way to do it?
Can at least we have a discussion before everyone gets all high and mighty on our ass?
This final blog comment reflects everything I love in a critical thinker. It is not for nor it is against; it asks the questions to promote a civil and rational dialogue:
“Very interesting indeed, and on the business front, certainly much to take away from it. Market segmentation and niche are essential business survival tools nowadays.
Though within the business culture, there does remain a question of what is acceptable. If people are going to make the mistake all the same, is it alright – and I dare say, moral – to profiteer off of it? The ends of the spectrum are too far apart for one standardized answer, but it certainly raises a question when boundaries of social dynamics are breached and when such an act is legitimized, better yet, facilitated. I would not argue for or against at the moment, but I would simply struggle with the CEO dismissing the issue so indifferently.
Great post indeed! Food for thought.”
I freaking love this guy, or gal, because dialogue is so damn important.
Can’t we all approach all issues in this same level-headed manner? Or would that just make us to “Spock-ian?”
So, my take:
I would tend to agree with the overall tone of this last response. The respondent asks some very good questions riding the tension between business ethics and consumer demand. However, if the problem is cheating and millions of people do it all the time, perhaps there is a far more fundamental problem in society… AshleyMadison.com is just a symptom of deeper more socially cancerous issue. It has 22 million members in 25 countries and this is just one of THOUSANDS of such sites; it is only the tip of the cheating iceberg, Now if we include all those who still prefer to cheat the old-fashioned way, the cheating non-techies by way of pool man, cabana boy and those old schoolers who still put the secret in secretary, we have an epidemic on our hands.
Maybe we need more civil dialogue about relationships, fidelity, sexuality and realistic expectations?
If cheating is the problem (effect), a certain dissatisfaction -at some level- must be the cause. What is that dissatisfaction and let’s TALK about THAT.
Perhaps we need to reexamine traditional marriage as so many see it? To learn how to become satisfied and honest partners in a relationship?
Maybe we need to ask ourselves what the roles of complete transparency and honesty mean in a relationship.
Maybe we need to be asking why society keeps accepting the tradition of marriage as we know it, when it fails so miserably at so many different levels for so many different people.
Perhaps we need NOT be discussing the social acceptability/morality of an AshleyMadison, rather we need to be asking WHY so many people want and do cheat.
Perhaps we need more classes with open book tests?
Get to the bigger issue and sites like AshleyMadison will eventually go away. All they are doing now is exploiting and feeding off society’s dystopian vision and dysfunctional view of love and relationships. What is that dystopian vision and dysfunctional view? I will not address that (at least in this blog), yet all the evidence points to something gone terribly wrong.
Above all, these types of questions need to be discussed amidst a conversational context and tone of reason, openness and honesty without judgment. Or we will just continue the insanity and keep doing what we are doing with the same miserable results.