Embracing Duplicity, or a Kinder Alternative?

Ashley Madison – what’s in a name? For most English speaking North Americans, it should imply something up-to-date, as it was created from the combination of two of the most popular girls’ names. The Ashley part may connote the feminine, and perhaps innocence, while the Madison part attunes us to the wealth and prestige of Madison Avenue, as well as strength and solidity of Manhattan. Ashley Madison is a social networking website, which, utilizing the catchphrase ‘Life is short. Have an affair,’ is designed to facilitate infidelity.

While Facebook denies him ad space , Noel Biderman, Ashley Madison’s owner and CEO, contends his websitewill be the fastest growing social networking site next to Facebook. Facebook is not the only entity to deny him ad space. In 2009 Ashley Madison was banned from sponsoring the Superbowl by NBC. And the Toronto Transit Commission turned down Biderman’s attempt to purchase $200,00 worth of streetcar adverts, even with the added offer of subsidizing ticket prices by 25 cents if the deal went through. In February of last year (2010), Ashley Madison offered the city of Phoenix, Arizona $10,000,000 to rename its airport Ashley Madison Airport for a period of five years. Despite financial difficulties, Phoenix declined the offer.

Biderman, happily married and a father of two children, is himself a family man. In defense of his business, he points out that” infidelity has been around a lot longer than Ashley Madison.” He further defends his business platform as offering an alternative that is cheaper than a divorce, more honest and less hurtful than lying about your status on a singles’ dating site, and more professional than having an affair with someone in your office.

In January of 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported that the site had 3.2 million members, and as of February 2011 Wikipedia notes that the site claims it has over 7.8 million members. So, it is indeed growing, but still a long way off from Facebook’s supposed 600 plus million active members. However, Ashley Madison is not your standard social networking site, and not even a run of the mill dating site. The Los Angeles Times notes, interestingly, that while on most dating sites, while members are supposed to be single as well as available, and go to length to present themselves as such, even when the often aren’t, Ashley Madison allows, even encourages, members to display their duplicity openly. While the French and Italians (indeed most Europeans, as well as many others worldwide), may be more accepting of extra-marital affairs (perhaps even to a point at which such a website would be superfluous), are Americans, with our Puritanical roots, our ‘moral majority’ family-centeredness, ready to embrace such a concept out in the open? Please leave your comments below!

Sources: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Madison, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook), msnbc (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41583762/ns/business-bloomberg_businessweek/?gt1=43001), Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-daum10-2009jan10,0,7649415.column)