The online dating site Ashleymadison.com made headlines recently due to the launch of its website for the first time in Asia. The website focusing on infidelity (it’s slogan is ‘Life is short. Have an affair’) was launched in 2001 and its response since then has been overwhelming – the site has since expanded to almost 30 countries worldwide, with a membership approaching 20 million and receiving 1.8 million unique hits per month.
It seems that the appetite for infidelity is insatiable apparently. In June, the company launched its Japan site – the first in Asia – and its Hong Kong site last month. Since the launch, Japanese membership has reached half a million, with Hong Kong hitting 80,000 members since launch, making it the “most successful launch rate per capita, showing a ‘massive pent up demand’” According to Noel Biderman, the company’s CEO, the site plans to expand to 10 or 11 more markets in Asia as well.
Of course, a site such as this has come under plenty of criticism since its launch. Its success debunks any notion that there is no demand though. Biderman has stated in many interviews that human beings will cheat anyway – all he provides is a platform for them to do it, stating that no one without the intention to cheat would sign up for membership.
Well on that point I have to say I both agree and disagree. I agree because there is an inherent sense of morality that society places on its members. This stems from sources such as religion, and perhaps Confucian ideals as well in the Asian context. The need to maintain this level of morality in society has led to everyone from commentators to religious and political figures condemning ‘immorality’ and lamenting the moral decay of society. It is this expectation of morality which has led to a succession of ads and sponsorships offered by Ashley Madison being rejected. For example, the Toronto Transit Commission rejected $200,000 worth of advertising on its streetcars, with its commissioner stating that ‘When it’s a core fundamental value around cheating or lying, we’re not going to let those kinds of ads go on’.
That said, my points of disagreement stem from me admitting that I subscribe to the Hobbesian theory on the state of nature, whereby life is of course ‘nasty, brutish and short’. What Hobbes meant was that humans, if left to their solitary devices, would fall back into their base states of brutishness and misery if there were no regulations and order provided by a central authority. Therefore to me, people would run wild (have affairs, commit crimes etc) if there were no barriers to doing so. Morality has no place in this. The key here is opportunity. As long as there are opportunities provided, humans will revert to their base states of nature and in this context – cheat.
That’s it, just found some interesting articles on a topic which I’m sure is close to everyone’s heart (let’s face it – who in a relationship here hasn’t fantasised on someone else), and wanted to share my thoughts on it. I can at least say for certain that Ashley Madison won’t be coming to Singapore any time soon. Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s for you readers to think on and decide.