“Life is short. Have an affair,” proclaims controversial dating website Ashley Madison. Married people sign up to meet each other for affairs and “discreet encounters” through the website, which with 20 million members says it is the world’s largest dating platform for cheating husbands and wives.
The dating agency launches in Hong Kong at the end of the month, and is expected to be greeted with howls of protest from church leaders, family groups and moral guardians. Hong Kong’s politicians are unlikely to jump into the fray, unless they are themselves squeaky clean and monogamous.
Not surprisingly, the website has already sparked a media furore throughout America and Europe, with coverage on CNN and Fox News and in print media such as Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
No Sloppy Endings
Ashley Madison says it tries to make women feel comfortable about having affairs. They even aim for the moral high ground, claiming most online dating sites use half-naked women to lure new users, while they portray a “girls’ night out feeling” to attract married women. To make affairs more attractive to women, founder and CEO Noel Biderman, who styles himself “The King of Infidelity,” says he named the website using the two most popular female baby names in 2002. He says the website is upfront about its purpose: connecting married people who want to stray with no strings attached, and with no “sloppy endings.”
Before setting up Ashley Madison in 2002, Biderman worked as a sports agent who discovered he had a talent for helping professional athletes juggle their wives and mistresses, realising that marital deceit was rife. After finding that 30 per cent of online dating members were already married, he saw a business opportunity of offering internet dating for cheats. Based in Canada, the site has expanded to 28 other countries, recently finding fertile ground in Japan with a million sign-ups in the first two months.
Women Take the Lead
Biderman, who arrives in Hong Kong on August 27 for the launch, has done his homework, citing the 2011 census which said there were 20,000 divorces filed that year – a divorce rate 10 times higher than it was 30 years ago. Currently, the local ratio of men to women aged between 25 and 54 is 88-100, providing male Hong Kong members with a larger pool of women to cheat with. However, being a female-centred website, Ashley Madison claims it can provide Hong Kong women with a platform to pursue their own extra-marital affairs.
Let’s hope they don’t meet their own husband on the site.