You can’t have failed to notice the big kerfuffle about hackers releasing people’s private details from the Ashley Madison database. To be clear, this is a website dedicated to facilitating adulterous affairs. Honestly, my first reaction was ‘so what?’ If people give their real details (have you not heard of creating secret email accounts, people? Put some effort in for goodness sake) to a site with the intention of lying, deceiving and ultimately hurting their partners, stuff ‘em. After all, my default response to people who are unfaithful to their partners is to assume they’re lazy scumbags with relationship issues that they can’t be bothered to solve. They can’t be bothered to try and fix things, to try and communicate or to go to counseling and then if that doesn’t work, consciously uncouple. I tend to assume they are selfish and think that by having an affair they can just skip all that pesky talking, crying and general hassle that comes with breaking up in a mature responsible manner.
Avid Life Media don’t just own Ashley Madison, they own some other choice sites like CougarLife.com ‘a site where women can feel comfortable sharing their real age’, EstablishedMen.com, a site that ‘connects ambitious and attractive girls with successful and generous benefactors to fulfill their lifestyle needs’ and Mancrunch.com, ‘the fastest growing gay hook-up site’ (not anymore!). Unfortunately, the men who were on Mancrunch had their data released indiscriminately along with everyone else who had signed up to an Avid Life Media site. This was a little problematic for those who weren’t ‘out’, particularly since some of them lived in countries where being gay is illegal and where being outed could endanger their lives. So hackers, that was not cool. But the phone app does have a left-handed mode—that is so cool.
By the way, let’s just look at the fact that we’re so damning of these so called ‘adulterers’ as opposed to the hackers. Adultery is not actually illegal, hacking is. Unfortunately in our western society, morals are still informed by our mainly Christian background. As an atheist this may annoy me but I can’t ignore it. Society still thinks of marriage as being between two people and, in this country, they apparently still have to be a man and a woman. It’s ridiculous that we assume the ideal presented in the media of one man and one women together forever, forsaking all others (by the way that is the line I tripped up over in my marriage vows and yes, I am divorced now) as the only way to model our relationships and anything else is an aberration. I have friends in open relationships with varying levels of ‘open’ and various rules of conduct that are generally well communicated. I don’t believe in the fantasy that we all meet someone in our twenties and can somehow stay with that person for the rest of our lives having never growing, never changing, never being tempted and being blissfully happy for the next 60+ years.
Did the people who signed up for Ashley Madison deserve to be exposed? Yes and no. The ones who have been going around publicly spewing hate for same sex marriage as it will “ruin the sanctity of marriage” whilst privately ruining the “sanctity” of their own marriages by indulging in extramarital affairs—I say expose them for the hypocrites they are. The ones who are in abusive relationships and have subsequently been bashed because they were exposed—no, most emphatically no; there is no excuse for domestic violence and sometimes it is hard to escape. Those who are on the sites because they have terminally ill partners who can no longer have a physical relationship—we don’t know what their situation is, what agreements the couple have privately come to or what we would do to protect our loved ones feelings. Either way it is none of our business. And those who checked it out and maybe had a fantasy flirt with no intention of actually being unfaithful and ended up finding friends and a support network—they don’t deserve public exposure in this indiscriminate abuse of privacy. Maybe they need to learn to communicate to their partner better but again, it is none of our business.
Which brings us to the question of what exactly constitutes being unfaithful? It depends on each individual couple, threesome or polygamous relationship. For some couples, occasionally bringing in a third person for sex is their norm, but if either of them were to go off with someone on their own that would be a betrayal. For some, they have an ‘oral sex only’ rule (no penetration, no affection) with others. In certain relationships the use of porn can be seen as a betrayal if the other partner has expressed that they consider it out of bounds. So does flirting on Ashley Madison or indeed any online forum constitute being unfaithful?
It does if it would hurt your partner if they were to find out and you hadn’t discussed it with them. When you enter a relationship you should be clear about who you are and what makes you tick. If you need to go off and get the occasional head job from a guy whilst in a stable relationship then you need to be upfront about that. If you think your partner chatting with ex-girlfriends online late at night is behaviour you are not comfortable with you need to be clear about it. And when the sex doll robots become an affordable reality you need to decide whether you are going to be okay with your partner having sex with an android.
Things to ask yourself before being unfaithful:
- Are you just hoping to get caught so you can break up? Then just break up with them.
- Will this hurt your partner? Then don’t. Go home and sort it out or break up with them.
- Is this next twenty minutes worth feeling like a scumbag for months and/or hurting your partner? Go home and decide if you want to break up with your partner.
- Is this sanctioned as within the rules of your relationship? Then you aren’t being unfaithful, have fun!
- Is your partner in a coma from which they will never recover? Make sure the person you are having sex with knows the deal and that your family never finds out and go for it.
- Are you not practicing safe sex and risking your partner’s health? I can’t even look at you. Go and take a good hard look at yourself.
- Is your partner no longer able to have sex with you or actually recognise who you are but totally reliant on you for everything including changing their catheter? Then it is none of anyone’s business.
- Was your partner unfaithful and this is payback? This will only hurt both of you again. Get some counseling and move past their transgression or move on
Words by Emma Sachsse