Noel Biderman, the mastermind behind cheating website Ashley Madison, defends his dating site.
Say what you will about acclaimed philanderers' website Ashley Madison, but the proof is in the numbers—the site boasts a more-than-impressive 7 million members. As you read this, cheating hearts are setting up booty calls in eight countries and three different languages. So does founder and CEO Noel Biderman feel ethically conflicted about creating a portal for millions of roaming hands around the globe? Nope. Not at all. We chatted with Biderman to give him a chance to make a case for Ashley Madison and how he thinks the site may actually help marriage.
YourTango: How do you feel about promoting infidelity?
Noel Biderman: I didn't invent infidelity. Though I may be tweaking it. Infidelity is misunderstood, and we struggle with it in our society. We should stop being so judgmental about it. I know why they [cheaters] do it; they love their families, they don't want to get divorced, especially if there are kids involved. Aren't the kids really the victims of divorce? If we stand back and realize a person in a monogamous marriage has a 50/50 chance of making it, you may realize that cheating happens in order to preserve marriage.
Sure, marriage is difficult, but doesn't Ashley Madison encourage infidelity by making it seem normal?
I don't think people are so pliable that seeing a 30-second advertisement for Ashley Madison will make people want to go have an affair. We're safe, secure and anonymous and we keep them off traditional dating sites, mixing and mingling with single folks.
But the real problem with cheating is the dishonesty.
It's only dishonest because they don't want to hurt their partners and are terrified of the repercussions. It's not dishonesty because of a character flaw. I do see it as constructive. I get thank you e-mails from those who say I helped them get through the day. I'm happy to be a part of the solution.
So what made you start a dating site for cheaters?
It wasn't about cheating, honestly. It was primarily business research. Online dating was growing, and I read somewhere that 30 percent of its users were in relationships. Anybody can sign up and pretend to be single on a dating website. It's no different then the bar scene. You aren't going to stop people from having affairs, but you can cut down on the risk of unwanted disclosure with a website like this. When you're having an affair you're risking a lot, and on Ashley Madison don't have to lie about who you are.
What's the breakdown between men and women?
About 70 percent men, 30 percent women. That varies slightly depending on the region. Surprisingly, Houston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Atlanta are at least 4-5 percent higher in females. As far as age breakdown is concerned, the large majority of the women are in their 20s and 30s, while the majority of men are in their 40s and all the way up to their 70s. When you get into the 55 and older age bracket, it's 90 percent men.
When is your busiest registration day?
Monday morning between 7 and 9 am, and the day after Valentine's Day or New Year's—any big day full of expectation when you're let down.
How did you come up with the name Ashley Madison?
Well, my view is that men are going to pursue women regardless. So we really wanted to attract women. Ashley and Madison were the two top baby girl names at the time, so it didn't sound tawdry. Women wouldn't sign up for something tawdry-sounding like The Affairs Club.
Does it work like a traditional dating site? How much does it cost?
It's free to join, and we do a pay as you play kind of a thing. You can buy 100 credits for $49 and you can spend your credits however you like. It's 5 credits to message someone, a chat is paid like a cab with a meter running. You can send virtual gifts, we have things like champagne and diamonds. We also offer private photo galleries where the user has to send someone a key in order to view.
When I was browsing the site I saw a significant amount of single people registered. Why would a single person want to go on Ashley Madison?
There are far more single women on the site then single men. Of the 30 percent single people on the site, only 8-10 percent are men. To a lot of women, if a man is taken they become more attracted to him. Also, many women and men in heterosexual relationships are looking to explore a same-sex relationship. We're a site that isn't necessarily about married or heterosexual. There's a lot of diversity.
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