Online dating, which was frowned upon in the 80s and 90s, has established itself in just a few years time as the second most common way of finding a partner. It is surpassed only by the traditional method of meeting someone through friends. As impressive as this shift in our social habits is, it is hardly surprising when you take into account how quickly and fundamentally our lives have been transformed through the technological revolution.
AshleyMadison.com contributes in two ways to this change. Until recently, one usually looked for a fling within their social network of friends and family or at work . The chance to be discovered and the resulting problems were disproportionately high. Over 16 million people in 25 countries already use our service as an alternative to finding the perfect affair, which consists not just of encountering the perfect affair partner, but also avoiding discovery.
Our mission, furthermore, is to significantly boost gender equality in infidelity. In our society, an unfaithful man has been and continues to be celebrated as a symbol of masculinity, while women who cheat have been vilified. For centuries, men have had at their service a whole infrastructure that enables and facilitates their infidelity. On the other hand, until the advent of the Internet in our daily lives, women never had such outlets. For this reason, I chose the most popular American girl names in 2002, Ashley and Madison, as a brand name and made the overall look of the site feminine with shades of magenta. The idea was that women should feel welcome, comfortable and safe from the start as well as have the able to identify with our site.
I am continuously asked who actually uses our service. The remarkable thing is that we have members from all over the world, from all walks of life, age groups, and social classes. An interesting story from a few years ago concerns a 72-year-old man. He wrote to me with the complaint that the search parameters only configured up to 60 years of age and he, thus, never showed up in results. Of course, we immediately remedied this and shortly afterwards he contacted me again to tell me that he had met someone.
We have, nevertheless, compiled an average profile of both our male and female members:
The typical adulterer is 41 years old, 1,80 meters tall and weighs 80 kg. 83% are married and 66% cheat more than once, which explains why they prefer short affairs. For 43% of them, the ideal mistress is between 30 and 35 years old. Since “Das Mädchen Rosemarie,” we are aware of the association of infidelity with money and power, which explains why 27% of them work in the world of finance or management in larger companies.
The average age of the typical adulteress is a bit younger. She is 34 years old, measures 1,66 m and weighs 55 kg. Interestingly, the percentage of married women is below that of men (69%). Housewives, 21% of whom have been married for at least seven years and indicate the lack of attention by their partner as the principal reason for their desire to cheat, form the largest social group among our members representing 26%. At the same time, we have noticed a growing phenomenon worldwide in relation to single mothers and career women. Both groups state they are at moments in their lives when they have priorities other than a stable relationship (namely, their children or their career) and they feel that a permanent partner would be a burden. Consequently, they are looking for something that is ‘no strings attached’ and prefer casual encounters with a man who is already married. Generally, women are looking for an older lover and they are partial to someone 40 to 45 years old.
Something we continually deal with is the criticism by self-appointed moralists who want to achieve their “15 minutes of fame” by campaigning against us. We are being accused of everything from the moral decline in our society and inciting people to cheat to being responsible for the failure of marriages. The fact is that we did not invent infidelity. It has been around since the artificial invention of monogamy, which in all of nature only exists in a handful of species. No ad, no TV spot which we run, will ever lead to anyone being unfaithful. Someone who is 100% happy in their relationship will feel no desire to look for someone else. What we offer to the people who have chosen to be unfaithful is to meet like-minded individuals in a safe, discreet environment. With our advertising, we try to show cheaters that, even if they are still marginalized in our society, they are not alone. We want to point out the double standards and hypocrisy that continue to make affairs a taboo subject, even if both biological and sociological studies prove it is a social reality. What is much more likely to contribute to the moral decay of our society are politicians who do not have the courage to tell us the truth, or the church that, as a result of antiquated, anachronistic notions, preaches the exclusion of large sections of society rather than love and tolerance.
The worldwide success of AshleyMadison.com speaks for itself. It is obvious that we respond to a real need for millions of people. This fact confirms every day that our work is important. Although we do not expect to be awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize anytime soon, we continue our efforts every day to make our society just that much more tolerant towards its diversity.
Read more in this debate: Catalina Toma.