There are at least 12,000 potential adulterers in Hong Kong, if statistics from a recently launched dating site are to be believed.
Infidelity dating website Ashley Madison says that within just a few days of its launch it had already clocked up 12,000 new Hong Kong members and 320,000 unique hits from users located in the city, all eager to explore what founder and CEO Noel Biderman describes as “the intelligent choice” for people looking to conduct affairs.
“I have come here to try and explain that I’m not the devil. I didn’t invent infidelity,” he told the South China Morning Post.
“Affairs have been happening in Hong Kong long before I got here, and my role is not to compete with other dating sites or even persuade people to have an affair. I want to convince people who have already decided to have an affair that my platform is the best place to do it.”
The controversial website connects married or “attached” people looking for “discreet affairs”, and claims to have around 21 million members across 30 countries worldwide.
Biderman, 42, says it is a safer and more effective option for philandering Hongkongers who don’t want to get caught out.
“The perfect affair is meeting someone and not being discovered. That’s not Facebook.
“Single women in Hong Kong can breathe a sigh of relief on other dating sites as they’re no longer going to bump into married men there, and the workplace may not be overrun with promotions because of who someone has slept with versus their talent and merit.
“In my own way, I’m trying to perfect infidelity.”
Ashley Madison had already attracted a storm of criticism before its launch in Hong Kong on Monday, with religious groups and family value organisations in the city blasting it as a “threat to family life”.
However a quieter, less vocal group is clearly intrigued, with several profiles on the website purporting to be Hongkongers looking for “no-strings-attached” action.
User “DonaldHK”, 43, says he is seeking Hong Kong married women wanting to indulge in “a purely physical relationship”, preferably “during lunchtime”. “Fionlove”, 32, is interested in “light kinky fun”, “threesomes” and “erotic tickling” amongst her fairly comprehensive list of preferences, while “ooola.oh”, 36, says he is looking for a woman who wants “to bathe with me in the river of love, be respected, loved, and experience orgasms – why not give me a chance?”
“I have been received differently in Hong Kong than elsewhere – I haven’t met with the same aggressiveness,” Biderman says. “I think there is a lot of respect here for business acumen and the general lack of religion here versus in other cultures has also been part of it.
“That’s not to say there haven’t been some groups standing up and screaming – but they’ve got it backwards. Infidelity, undiscovered, doesn’t lead to divorce – it helps people stay in marriage.
“What [religious groups] are talking about from their pulpit is a discovered affair. We’re providing the opportunity to have a clandestine affair, and helping millions of people around the world stay in their marriages.
“This is a marriage preservation device.”
Canadian entrepreneur Biderman, a former sports attorney who has been at the helm of Ashley Madison since its inception in 2002, says he expects a total of 70,000 new Hong Kong members in the first month, increasing to between 300,000 and 500,000 within the first year.
He dismisses concerns that some Hongkongers might have of “virtually” bumping into their own spouses on the website, saying that safeguards have been built into the platform and that users can opt to keep their profile information and photographs anonymous.
“Hong Kong has seven million people – that is not a small place. Tacoma in Washington and Sudbury in Ontario are small places, and we’ve successfully connected thousands of people from there for affairs.
“I think the legacy of Hong Kong being its own [special administrative region within China] has given people the sense it’s small.
“But I assure you we’ll connect hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong. The entire product is designed for discretion.”
The entrepreneur, who is married with two children, says that although his wife of 11 years, Amanda, has differing views to him on infidelity, she supports his business and the pair are “in this together on every level”.
“We both agree you can’t convince people to have affairs. If someone has an affair in the Peninsula Hotel [in Kowloon], or calls their lover on their Samsung phone, it’s not the hotel or the company’s fault.
“[Similarly] if you have an affair and choose Ashley Madison, it’s not Ashley Madison’s fault.”
Biderman says he views Hong Kong as the gateway to China, saying the company will use its experience here to formulate a long-term strategy for the broader Chinese market.
He admits he is concerned about censorship issues but is optimistic he can crack the Chinese market and convince the populace of the website’s “broader societal benefits”.
“I think everyone in China knows affairs happen and I don’t think they want their most popular single dating sites inundated with married people, or affairs happening in the workplace.
“Hopefully they’ll look at Ashley Madison and say yeah, this makes sense.”
With plans to expand further into Asia including the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, some might wonder if the entrepreneur is seeking to conquer the world with his provocative business.
“Infidelity is a universal phenomenon, and I have the chance to build a truly universal social network dating website.
“Do I want to take over the world? No. I want to service it.”