I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for all the people whose Ashley Madison user details were released publicly. Not that sorry because it’s hard to have a tremendous amount of sympathy for someone who looks at a website subtitled “Life is short. Have an affair” and decides “Yup. That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for.”
|Stay classy, Ashley Madison.|
I’m all for open relationships and polyamory and whatnot. There’s absolutely no reason why a married person shouldn’t be on the look out for another sexual partner if that what’s been discussed and decided upon and everybody’s honest with each other and on the same page. But that’s not what Ashley Madison was all about. It was very much a discreet service aimed at people wanting to get their end away without all the tedious business of their other halves finding out.
It’s not on, quite frankly. It’s not only behaving like a shitbag, it’s behaving like a shitbag to the one person you have specifically made legally binding promises not to be a shitbag to.
|“I promise not to be a shitbag.”|
But here’s where my little bit of sympathy comes in. If you are trawling the internet for extra-marital sexy shag times, then your spouse deserves to know about it. But, really, does anyone else need to know? Is it anyone else’s business that you at some point at least contemplated infidelity?
I haven’t had an extra-marital affair (never being married may have something to do with that) but I have, at various points in my life, done some pretty shitty things. And outside of the people who were directly affected by my shitty behaviour, I don’t think it is anyone else’s business.
When personal privacy issues hit the headlines, people are quick to say “If you’ve got nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.”
Why shouldn’t I have something to hide? Hasn’t everyone got the right to have something to hide?
For example, I have an account on FetLife. I’m sure most of my readership are familiar with FetLife, even if you’re not active users. You’re a pretty kinky bunch. To anyone unfamiliar with the site it’s basically ‘Facebook for Perverts’. Users befriend other users, join groups, participate in discussions and – if they are so inclined – put up a bunch of photos of themselves enjoying their preferred fetishes. Should a bunch of hackers decide to publish user data from that site I am sure that could be embarrassing for lots of people.
|Although, given that you don’t have to give any Real Life details when you sign up to FetLife, maybe not.|
The UK website Mumsnet.com was recently the victim of a Denial of Service Attack by a hacker who also posted 3000 subscribers’ usernames and passwords to his Twitter account. I am a frequent lurker and occasional poster on Mumsnet. Although my username didnt appear on the published list I was freaked out enough to quickly change my password details on every other significant online account where I had used the same password. (Yes, I used the same password for everything. Yes, I am an idiot.)
The Mumsnet Hacker’s motivations aren’t entirely clear yet but he seems to have a very personal grudge against the site. Given that a lot of women in abusive relationships seek advice in the Relationships part of the talkboard and invariably receive supportive and sensitive advice on how to escape, it’s very easy to at least hazard a guess why there might be men out there with a grudge against the site. Abusers are very quick to blame anyone else for the consequences of their actions.
Releasing Mumsnet user details probably wasn’t intended to shame Mumsnet subscribers. It was intended to decrease user’s confidence in using the site. And must have been terrifying to anyone who was trying to stay ‘under the radar’ because of abusive partners or family members with whom they are no longer in contact.
But there’s nowt intrinsically embarrassing about being part of the UK’s biggest and best parenting website. Albeit the website whose talkboards introduced its readers to the concept of penis beakers, being euphemistically taken “up the Oxo tower” and understanding the incontrovertible link between Centre Parcs and anal sex.
|Oxo Tower, London. Draw your own conclusions.|
On the other hand, publishing the details of subscribers to Ashley Madison is all about the shaming. Over thirty million people now have some serious explaining to do.
Men around the world (and it is mostly men, as will be explained in a bit) now have to potentially claw back any kind of trust in their marriages by claiming that they “joined by accident” or were set up or joined in a moment of madness but never, ever met up with any women as a result of subscribing.
And to be fair, most of them probably didn’t get their end away. The ratio of men to women on that site was hugely imbalanced. There were over 31 million male members at the time of the hack. And only five and a half million female members. That’s a ratio of roughly six men to every one woman.
But wait, it gets worse for our would-be male adulterers. It turns out that a staggeringly high percentage of those female members didn’t exist in the first place. According to this article, most female user accounts were not active. The site was full of men contacting women who simply were not there, because the accounts have been activated and never used or, largely, because the accounts had been faked by Ashley Madison staff members in order to give the impression that there was a sizeable database of women readily available for unsatisfied husbands’ instant sexual gratification.
|Whatever next? It’s like finding out that all those “Horny Housewives In Your Area NOW” advert pop ups aren’t on the level, either.|
What does this mean, though? Obviously there are women willing to start relationships with married men. Heterosexual extra-marital affairs wouldn’t exist if there weren’t. Are most men up for it really and only the lucky few who encounter a like-minded female able to act on their impulses? Is the world full of monogamous men who remain so because they never get the opportunity not to be monogamous?
I think it might be the approach to cheating that is key here. Women cheat. But signing up to “Adultery R Us” websites is a pretty clinical way to go about it. I don’t want to get all “The Rules” about this, but maybe women are more emotional than men when it comes to fucking around in other husbands’ beds. It’s one thing to be in an unhappy marriage where you can’t or won’t leave your spouse and then find yourself becoming attracted to the much-more-exciting-than-your-husband bloke from accounts. “Getting swept away” by something “you didn’t mean to happen” is a pretty tried and tired excuse for marital infidelity. Deciding to sign up for a website in order to facilitate philandering is something else entirely. Maybe women prefer to cheat in a more old-fashioned Chatting-To-The-Charming-Dad-At-The-Under-7s-Football-Match way. “I didn’t mean it to happen! He was nice and sweet and funny and I literally couldn’t be arsed to finish things with my husband first like a decent person.”
|Soccer Dads. They’re irresistible.|
Is that better or worse than cold-bloodedly signing up to a site like Ashley Madison? Well I don’t know. Like I said, I’ve never been married myself. But I’m given to understand that once one enters into an exclusive monogamous marital arrangement, then fucking other people is pretty much a deal-breaker.
You can check if any of your loved one’s details are on the Ashley Madison database here. I really hope that none of my readership have had to deal with finding out their husbands were fully paid-up members of Ashley Madison.
If they are on there, maybe someone used their e-mail address as part of a typo-related accident, or maybe someone decided to set their account up for a laugh, or maybe they signed up in a ‘moment of madness’ but didn’t meet anyone through Ashley Madison and certainly, definitely didn’t shag anyone.
Just bear in mind, if it’s that last one, then it’s entirely believable they didn’t fuck anyone. The odds were entirely not in their favour. But it probably wasn’t because of any lack of trying on their part.