My editor sent me a fascinating story about the business behind the site Ashley Madison. For those of you who are not familiar with the site, its mission is to provide people seeking affairs the environment to pursue the fantasy. It's a dating site where cheaters meet (online first) and later in person.
My knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss Ashley Madison as exploitive filth.
But then I thought more about it and realized that people are going to find a way to cheat with or without Ashley Madison. I don't buy into the CEO's argument that the site is actually saving marriages by providing a secret outlet, but I do think there's more to blame than just the site.
It's the age-old argument: do you blame the drug user or the drug dealer? Drugs and cheating are activities that draw weak people. There's an exploitive element to Ashley Madison: inviting people at weak moments in their lives to act on their desire to stray from their significant other. But, in the end, people are responsible for their own actions regardless of what vehicle they choose to satisfy their unsavory urges.
Still, there were a number of interesting research points mentioned in the article:
While stress and cultural factors may drive use, looks apparently do not, at least for the men. "If you sat down with 20 people who'd had an affair and said, rate the person you had an affair with 'better looking' or 'worse looking' than your partner, almost 90 percent'll say worse," Biderman says. "You can build a profile right now of an unattractive woman, overweight, whatever, she'll still have a dozen men interested in meeting her."
A married friend of mine who has cheated said that it wasn't about his wife. He just wanted something different... anything. Perhaps this is male biology... although I would never get intimate with someone who I didn't find physically attractive. I've always thought that was shallow, but is it equally as shallow to hook up with girls that aren't physically attractive, just to do it?
Many men long for variety; personally I look for variety in life in general (once I've found a special girl), not in dating. The need to be with women who are not as attractive as the spouse is almost protective: preserve the life/marriage while also getting a bit of what he wants...something new. If she's not as attractive as the spouse, it will not amount to much, but it will be something.
The article also pointed out spikes in registration based on time of year:
The Day After New Year's Day: Men 78%, Women 22%
This one seems obvious: those who are thinking of turning over a new leaf by spicing up their sex lives are probably taking the next step.
The Day After Valentine's Day: Men 52%, Women 48%
My theory is that people who were not treated right on Valentine's Day by their spouse are looking for someone who will treat them right. A bad Valentine's Day can make someone feel lonely.
Day After Father's Day: Men 87%, Women 13%, Day After Mother's Day: Women 77%, Women 23%
My theory for the spike is actually based on two reasons: 1. Mother's and Father's Day make moms and dads feel old, and finding a new fling is a way to feel younger. 2. Mother's and Father's day reinforce the settled life (the settled life that makes a flighty person feel coupled up even more), and looking for a new flame is a rebellious reaction to that feeling of being trapped.
I guess they take Ashley Madison's claim "change your life today" to heart.
What are your thoughts on Ashley Madison and the numbers above? Any theories for the findings?