Sex! Nudity! Cheating! This and Other Affairs….The World According to Ashley & Madison

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.

Ashley Madison

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?”

Ashley Madison ad

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.

jimmysintension

31 Comments

  1. Love this article! Definitely a lot of fodder for discussion here- everything from “Are humans built to be mates for life?” to the reasons behind jealousy and compersion! I’d throw in my two cents, and maybe later still. But someone still has to write their speech and do other homework too.

    • I figured you would like this one. It is so weird how facebook will not allow me to link this article… because it has Ashley Madison in the title? I had to link it to the home page. I look forward to your two cents soon!!

  2. I saw this commercial on late night TV several months ago and was outraged. I come from a traditional family where my parents have been married 32 years and still growing strong. Now, I could not figure out why I let this commercial upset me so much until I read your blog post. It is business ethics. But is it ethically wrong? This guy is a genius and a tool, facilitating a place where people who may be interested in cheating a “safer” place to go to deceive their partner or spouse. He is no different then thousands of other businessmen (TV evangelists for example or even mortuary owners) throughout history who have grasped at peoples desperation and fed from them their money into his pockets. Like you said Jimmy, should the blame be put on him? or on the ones seeking to cheat? or on society for putting all lifelong relationships into a box? Ultimately I think it society should be blamed, but that is my more “open-minded, lets try to understand everyone” side of my brain saying traditional marriage should be re-evaluated to something that was written in a book over 3000 years old. Now for my “love is a fairy tale that is going to have a happy ending” side of my brain… If one decided to take the traditional route to be with his/her partner for life, wouldn’t it be part of the thought process for that ultimate decision to do a traditional marriage that you would only have sexual relations with that one person? And if someone didn’t think they could do that, maybe they should re think their decision to stick to the traditional way. To sum up my rant, if you choose to go traditional, stick with it. If you do find sex outside of your marriage, then maybe the traditional route never was for you and you should have thought about that before you broke your partners soul by cheating. Congratulations to the scum bag who actually cheats, not Mr. Biderman who is reaping all the benefits from infidelity. And to close my very weirdly organized reply, WOMEN: Keep your man happy and maybe he wont go looking on the other side of the fence… If my wife has had a “headache” for the past two weeks, I would be frustrated too (though that does not give the man warrant to go somewhere else… Do what you can, give it and get it. Its important! Hate the player, not the game.

  3. People are going to cheat whether there is a web site available for it or not, not to say this is not on the grimey side; but the company is contradicting it’s own mission regarding ‘discreet affairs.’ As we all know nothing online is ever truly discreet. What if I was to sign up and find my dad as a match??? EEEWW! Although I do agree with Trisha that if you participate in sex outside of marriage then the traditional route is not for you; but ‘keeping your man happy’ may not necessarily trump his urge for some ‘strange.’

    • I doubt you would find your dad because you probably include an age range in your search (I would not know -swears- just speculation)…that would likely not include your daddy’s age.

      • Still, I’m not easily embarrassed but if another married couple I actually, physically knew saw my picture or profile or whatever it is they do on the site, (I’m assuming you would be putting up a picture or some sort of identifier), I would be embarrassed!

        • But think about it….they would be on there as well. I am sure it would be just your little secret.

  4. Have you read “The Ethical Slut” ??? Read “The Ethical Slut.” You’ll be glad you did. 🙂 It brings up some really interesting thoughts from a perspective that is rarely considered. 🙂

    • I have heard of “The Ethical Slut”and have not read it though I have read many similar books with the same theme. I do believe some people who are not truly polyamorous use it as an excuse to fuck around. This would be referred to as “immature monogamy.” What do you think of polyamory?

  5. Very interesting topic. I didn’t read all the comments so I’m sure my response echos someone else’s when I say “If you feel you have to cheat on your spouse then maybe you shouldn’t be in that relationship, but if you and your spouse agree to spice things up by taking other partners then all bets are off”.

  6. Well, there are so many complex issues that get placed on the table in this discussion. Capitalism vs. Morals, traditional values vs. Animal nature, Personal Freedom vs. societal norms, all set to the backdrop of marriage which is a powder Keg in itself. I’m not even sure really where to start…

      • Well, just on the subject of what he’s doing. He IS just providing a service, which is the life blood of our capitalist spirit. Just as I would argue to a person talking down on Walmart for putting Mom and Pop stores out of business. I don’t think Walmart intentionally tries to put Mom and Pop stores out of business to degrade American integrity; However I do believe that they try to maximize profits on the regular. Since increasing profit is the only goal of Capitalism, how can you scold someone for attaining it? So how can we, as capitalists ourselves, tell Walmart or Mr. Biderman off for existing in a gray-area?

        • Does living in a capitalist nation automatically make everyone within it a capitalist? I could live in a (free) capitalist culture with socialist or theocratic values.

          • No, I’m not saying that everyone IS a capitalist, but our society is built around that notion. Look at it this way, if you’re in a Chinese food buffet you can look for a burger but you might be hard pressed to find one. Not because burgers aren’t good, but rather because the establishment isn’t built around the idea of making burgers.
            I can see the problem that a site like this can seemingly create. A world where people cheat on their partners leaving droves of hardship in it’s wake. Why don’t we look at WHY people cheat rather than a company that facilitates it though? If we get to the base of that issue (cheating) then, with the help of capitalism, the option to open a website that provides a service offering help to remedy these underlying issues is available to those who really believe that a site such as this shouldn’t exist. If these issues were to be eliminated, then companies like AshleyMadison wouldn’t have the medium, or more relevantly, the market necessary to exist.

  7. When I read this on Sunday night, I had a hard time putting my finger on what about this really bothered me – aside from the business model itself, and there is a lot of debate there about the nature of marriage and monogomy. I finally boiled it down, it’s the profiteering aspect. The CEO of this company admits that the service his company provides is hurtful to the people that are lied to. He admitted he himself would feel betrayed yet he facilitates the behavior for his customers. How much complicity he and his company have is certainly questionable.

    What he does is akin to selling popcorn at a car crash.

    • Agreed…yet just when I want to throw the guy under the bus I consider his rationale…not bad.

    • I don’t think so. Why? Swinging is all about sex while often cheating is an emotional connection with another (in addition to sex). In addition, swinging requires an ability for both partners to be ok with the other to be with another…not something a lot of couples could handle.

      • Swinging being all about sex is a misconception as in ‘swinger culture’ a ‘unicorn’ refers to the girlfriend of the married couple, you would refer to their girlfriend as the unicorn in the relationship and a lot of times this ‘unicorn’ builds a bond, (were the base is sex), with both the male and female in the marriage which includes activities that may not always include sex, although it may lead up to it since this is also a sexual relationship. Swinging may require both partners to be okay with it, but there are certain stipulations that do enable partners to be okay with sex even if they are not present or having sex themselves. And, you would be surprised, there is a huge swinger culture in the Inland Empire.

        • Nothing surprises me in this regard. Sounds like this may make a great speech topic for you with the Informative #2 assignment. Just a thought.

  8. Very interesting! I had to look up the site. I thought I was going to have to present an argument but find that your questions about the reaction to such a service relevant. I have been married since I was 20. I have been with my husband for nearly 17 years and couldn’t imagine sharing him with another lover when we made our vows. Yet years later we began redefining our marriage and opening up our lives to seeing marriage in a different way. “Maybe we need more civil dialogue about relationships, fidelity, sexuality and realistic expectations?”, well said. I am not an advocate of cheating or disregarding your partners feelings, but maybe this site has created a safe outlet for these women to be fulfilled. We have to be brave and question everything so we can shape our lives into how we want them. Not everyone can do that. A woman with a husband who has lost his ability to have sex or emotionally has abandoned their wife may lead the woman into the arms of someone who will satisfy that need. It’s complex and in the gray while our society evolves hopefully into a more accepting culture of love in all shapes and forms.

    • Very well said Shanagolden. I think a lot of young people go into marriage with wonderful and glamorous expectations of everything it could be…yet time seems to change all of us in ways once thought impossible. My entire approach is to avoid divorce at all costs while still living a loving, fulfilled, satisfied and happy existence….for each relationship this will look different. Thank you for your honesty and contribution to jimmysintension!

  9. I’ve never heard of this website before reading this. I never knew something like this existed (not that I was looking for one). It’s seems like a great business for Biderman. I’m still young and know little about marriage and don’t care to learn about it any time soon. Reading this reminded me of a conversation I had with a guy once about legalizing prostitution. At first I thought it was odd and did not understand why it should be legalized, but then he started to explain his theory to me. He said that legalizing prostitution would help marriages last longer (wait what?!?), yes thats right being able to go out and paying someone to sleep with you legally would help marriages. This didn’t make much since until he explained his reasoning. If a married man can go out to the corner (or to a website even) and find someone to sleep with easily then the woman might try to fight for her man and do what every it takes to keep him. Now I know this may sound wrong but think about why most men have an affair… they aren’t getting what they want at home so they go find it somewhere else. If the wife knows her husband can go somewhere else easily then she will put in the extra effort to give him what he wants. But like I said I’m not married, so I don’t know how true this theory is, but it makes since.

  10. After reading this post I found it very interesting. I think that Biderman is going to get some sort of backlash I mean were talking about cheating and having to pay to receive this service.Cheating can be damaging to a couple’s relationship. It isn’t just the significant other that can be affected harmfully but their children can suffer emotional upset. If children were to find out it can have a devastating effect on them. While Biderman is a businessman he should be aware that some people might not take it lightly about this service he provides and makes money off of.

  11. I have never heard of this website before nor knew that something similar to this one existed. I think that as a society we stay away from promoting such a negative topic. I don’t understand how someone could back people behind “cheating”; such as the ashleymadison website did. Its one thing to promote a dating website but why are we encouraging people to cheat on a spouse with the intentions of not getting caught? If you have to do something behind your spouses back, the odds are you shouldn’t be doing it. I found this utterly disturbing. Instead of making profit off it a cheating website why don’t we try to make a profit off of marriage canceling or at the very worst profit off of divorce.

  12. Honestly I am all about people creating success out of unique ideas and this guy had a really unique one. I give him props for being successful and doing so in a way that is not ideal for most people. The issue I have is that his business is protecting the spouses who cheat, he said it himself that the normal ways of cheating are just bound to get you caught. He also said himself that he would be devastated if his spouse cheated on him so I just find that selfish. His entire business plan is something he is against and he is clearly doing it all for the money. He says he is helping people, but he is hurting more than he is helping. If these people were to find out there spouse is cheating they likely have families, that means twice as many people or more are effected. And yeah if you wanted to cheat you would probably find a way anyhow, but for cheaters they should not get to take the easy way out. If you want to be a cheater then you should have to work for it, not just have it handed to you on a silver platter.

  13. Capitalism at its best is often morality at its worst, it is a breeding ground for opportunists.
    Under the guise of safety, the site is enabling poor civil behavior, and exploiting human weakness. Infidelity is a soul crusher and the common destroyer of the family unit.
    Any marriage or relationship between to people is essentially an agreement, with the purpose of doing exactly the opposite of the what AshleyMadison.com assists with. A relationship agreement is meant to create joy and respect. Cheating, in a relationship doesn’t come with a jail sentence if caught – however, get caught cheating on your taxes and you may see yourself behind bars. This says a lot about how we regard cheating. It’s completely personal and hurts those who are bound to that relationship.
    Maybe, Biderman can sleep well at night knowing that for him, “it’s not personal, it’s just business,” words that often mean, “sorry I screwed you, but per the law I didn’t do anything wrong.”
    Cheating is a violation of trust, that’s exactly why each person who signs up and uses that site does so to avoid getting caught; that right there is the blatant indicator that what is being done has harmful consequences. A relationship agreement is one where the ground rule is, “I don’t want to hurt you, I want to love you,” and anyone who breaks that trust knows full well that it’s hurting the other person if they need to hide what they are doing from them.
    Sure, the site has millions of members and is financially successful, but that’s not how I measure success, nor does the high member count validate or justify its existence.
    This modern attitude of getting what you want, regardless of what it is you need, while trying to avoid the obvious consequences is the ruinous ground bearing forth the damaging and poisonous fruits of convenience, gluttony, willful ignorance, etc, etc.
    Ashleymadison.com is just another dead canary in the coal mine, we sweep it aside, talk about what it means, then go right back to digging down into the darkness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *