This is one of a multi-part series. For other instalments, see Romancing the code: Ashley’s Angels and internet demons.
Created in 2001, the website Ashley Madison (hereon AM) was supposedly named after the two most popular girls’ names of the time. Owned by Avid Life Media Inc. (hereon ALM), Ashley Madison’s tagline is, “Life is short. Have an affair.” ALM’s then-CEO, Noel Biderman, author of books such as Cheaters Prosper: How Infidelity Will Save the Modern Marriage, has repeatedly supported the philosophy of extra-marital affairs and the service that he felt his site was offering. In a 2009 interview with Canada’s Globe and Mail, Biderman suggested that infidelity was actually positive for marriages:
What I get is a lot of people who come back to me and say, ‘Listen, this has made me a better partner.’ They were angry and taking things out on their family. The sexual frustration they were feeling, they start having the affair and all of a sudden, that stress is removed. It’s very cathartic for those people. If you come home and you’ve had an affair earlier in the day, it might be easier not to be frustrated with your partner. The conversation could take a different directional tone and that can lead to intimacy.
If I woke up today in some kind of sexless marriage like so many Americans do, I would be genuinely upset by that. I would try to change it with my partner, but if I couldn’t change it, I don’t know if I would just walk out the door. I believe the social science, I’ve seen it firsthand, how children raised in single-parent households have more trouble with drugs and alcohol, have fewer educational opportunities, and get in trouble with the law. I don’t want to do that to my family and I certainly don’t want to do that because everything else I have going for me is great. I like my lifestyle, so why would I give it all up because the number five or six thing on my list—my sex life—is not where it should be? So yes, if my brother came to me and said I can’t take it anymore, I’m either leaving or I’m having an affair, I would encourage him to have an affair first.
In 2014, when asked if he had cheated on his own wife, Biderman told the UK’s Evening Standard:
Not yet. [….] Well, I’m only ten years into my marriage. If I woke up beside my wife and it was the 200th day we hadn’t been intimate with one another and it looked like nothing would change, I would cheat so fast. I would cheat long before I would get a divorce. If you have children that you love and a home that you built together and a future that you planned—why would you give that up just for sex?
In the same interview, Biderman even went on to argue that infidelity embodies feminist principles, since he is “giving women the opportunity to behave as liberally as they ever have”.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone agreed with Biderman’s philosophy of infidelity and marital happiness, and this series of posts investigates the 2015 Ashley Madison leak.
Read the next instalment – RTC02: Time’s up.