The Hong Kong launch of American adultery website Ashley Madison might have drawn attention from the English-speaking community and concern from moralists, but all these debates about whether the arrival of the site will tear families apart seem pointless – not because Hong Kong men don’t cheat, but because there are far too many better options out there.
“If the website targets at the affluent Hong Kong Chinese market, it’s not going to work,” said one successful ad man in his early 40s the other night. He has been married for 10 years with two beautiful children aged six and three.
“No muss no fuss is our motto. An affair simply causes too much trouble. Any emotional baggage that comes with an affair is too dangerous. What if she goes crazy and wants to chop me into pieces? I’d rather pay for sex, and it’s readily available,” he said, casually swirling his glass of Pinot Noir which I found a little too bitter.
“For convenience there are services available in town, or you can go on sex141.com, or pick up a girl at a bar or club - though that doesn't always work. Otherwise you can go to Macau, Dongguan or even Southeast Asia. You pay and play and you won’t bring home any trouble.”
“Hey but if you really have money, why not take a model or some actress as a mistress? Why do you waste time browsing the web like those losers on Golden Forum?” laughed an annoying trust fund "baby" in his 30s living off his family’s fortune. “I love those long legs.”
I couldn’t bear listening to this conversation any longer. It was a little offensive, but then, I thought, staring intently at my glass of wine, it simply echoed what Ashley Madison founder and chief executive Noel Biderman has said in an earlier SCMP interview , that cheating was more or less part of the DNA shared by human beings, with or without this new adultery website.
The reality is, concubinage was not banned in Hong Kong until 1971. Many tycoons today still don’t mind parading their multiple trophy girlfriends or “wives” as if they were ancient Chinese emperors. And infidelities are one revolving theme in local popular culture – not only do few get to do it with the internet, but most are comical and non-judgemental.
Back in 1988, Chow Yun-fat starred in comedy Diary of a Big Man, in which Chow, a banker, fell in love with two beautiful ladies played by Sally Yeh and Joey Wang and married them – one in France and one in the US. Chow might be living the dream of many men, but between two wives also caused his character a lot of trouble. In 2003, director Pang Ho-cheung’s well-received comedy Men Suddenly in Black followed four men planning their sex adventure on mainland China behind the backs of their wives and girlfriends.
Last year, Due West: My Sex Journey  raked in more than HK$19 million in the box office as of December, the sixth top grossing Hong Kong film in 2012. The film was a screen adaptation based on Epic Prostitution Report: Dongguan Woods from an online serial published in Golden Forum written by a mysterious author who named himself Xiang Xi Murakami Haruki. It was the author’s first-person account of a 25-year-old going for an “evil massage” in Dongguan behind his girlfriend’s back. This summer, Sex Duties Unit , a raunchy comedy following four members of the police force’s special duties unit’s outrageous sex adventure in Macau produced by Pang, took more than HK$10 million at the box office as of July 31.
When I was on the movie set of Due West last year, an extra, a married man and a frequent visitor of Dongguan told me: "You know, tenderness is not to be found from your wife. A wife is not as good as a concubine; a concubine is not as good as a secret affair; and a secret affair is not as good as one that you desire, but who's beyond your reach. It is this excitement that makes men want to go to these places. In here, you can enjoy the lifestyle of a king that you will never have at home with your woman." Right, it is the thrill of not getting caught, just like a kid doing something naughty behind his mummy’s back. You can dislike this kind of lifestyle, but you can't live in denial. It's like, you never know who in your office are out there for secret guilty pleasure at a nearby "massage parlor" when they claim they are out for a business lunch.
Of course cheating isn’t monopolised by men. Two years ago, Hi, Fidelity, which premiered at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, told the other side of the story. Patricia Ha made a comeback after a 21-year hiatus in Calvin Poon Yuen-leung’s film on a tai tais’ hiring of a male prostitute in revenge for their rich husband’s infidelity.
“Going online isn’t the safest option for men like us, unless you want free sex. But then it’s not entirely free. It also comes with a price tag just not in monetary terms,” the ad man said. “You want to keep it out of your life, and Hong Kong is too small.”
“Hey but if one really wanted to have an affair online, why not try those mainland sites (Bao Yan Wang 包養網) to look for a sugar daddy or mummy?” Here comes the trust fund baby again. “He or she might as well aim high and milk some cash out of it. There’s no such thing as free lunch.”
I downed my glass of Pinot Noir and left.