I had a blazing row with my mother earlier. I love these because we are both very stubborn, are usually in bad faith, like to keep the debate on terms we define and stop on semantics as a way to counter the other one. But we do part with a kiss on the cheek as if nothing happens. No pouting. That’s how I learn how to argue and fight.
It all started when I said I find somehow amusing the rather sickening irony that some of the people who were using Ashley Madison to cheat on their spouse were now taking to the courts against the website on the moral ground that their private life had been exposed and risks complete annihilation because of the website’s inability to keep its promises.
I mean the irony of people who paid to deliberately and consciously break their wedding vows suing a website who didn’t keep its promises is rather amusing. My mother wanted the debate to focus on their right to have their private life kept private and I did not disagree but wanted to stay on the irony. “Dialogue de sourds”
I get her point and although I disagree with anyone’s private life being publicly exposed without their consent, I do have trouble feel sympathy for these people because there are many reason why a country-worth of people are facing turmoil in their private life today.
I will sound very righteous but, as a gay man, we fought hard to get the right to get married so I do see it as a honourable institution and an important personal step in my life. A step that needs to be made free of social constraint, and the result of years (maybe a decade) of personal and couple development. Which I am sure, not a lot of these people’s marriages were to begin with…
The third reason for me is the hackers. My mother think it’s the first reason, I think it’s the third. As I said, I do not condone what they did. They try to take the moral high ground and tell us that it was to prove the website was lying to all its customers about security and the deleting of past information. The truth is that there could have done it in many other ways than publishing the names, addresses et al for everyone to see. Or they could have targeted some individuals such as Josh Duggar or Sam Rader and other famous, very vocal, self-righteous and self-promoting Christians who have been campaigning against gay marriage using the sanctity of the said institution as an argument. People who were saying that “the gays would destroy marriage” when it turns out they were themselves users of Ashley Madison. There was no need to out everybody as far as I am concerned, just the hypocrites whose dedication and faith is only a matter of self-interest and the up-keep of their privilege.
These hackers belong to the same breed of hackers who published naked picture of celebrities all the while trying to make us believe it was the only way to prove the iCloud was not safe and Apple were deceiving all of us. They were just trying to ride the wave of sexual shaming (of women mostly) but it did not work because it was made clear very early that there is nothing wrong with Jennifer Lawrence sending a private picture of herself to her boyfriend. There is however everything wrong with Apple storing it and it’s beyond the pale for hackers to publish it.
In that way, Ashley Madison’s hackers have been cleverer because they know it is and will be difficult to defend people who are willingly looking to cheat on their unknowing spouse. Even if it is not forbidden by the law, the social stigma is there and words like cheaters, liars and cowards are still in our heads when we think about the victims of this very hacking. Can these people really be victims or did they just get what they deserve in cheating? The hackers are trying to be the hand of God here.
They are just preying on people they disapprove of and decided to be the judge, the jury and the executioner in exposing their private in what is nothing but a modern form of Inquisition. They knew the papers would devour and analyse every development, and push people to find more about who is who. They knew the appetite for sex and dirt on our neighbours is endless in all societies. They could have used their time more constructively but not everyone has the courage of a Julian Assange or Edward Snowdon, have they?
The second reason is the website itself, its creators and its owners. They lied, they deceived, they tried to abuse their power and they failed in providing their customers what they were promising and charging for: an absolute anonymity and breach-proof security. It’s all well and good to prey on people’s emotional and sexual misery, as well as to play coy with social rules, to sit on a bed with a smirk and advertise for a life of lies and sexual musical chairs but you have to be able to at least protect the people you are preying on because you make them trust you. Trust…The irony again…
For what I understand, the website was not free and even deleting your account was to be paid for so having an affair was a right to enjoyment but it would indeed cost you even to stop having one. Now, they are facing with lawsuits that will cost them millions and frankly, except for the waste of time and public money in said courts, I am not going to shed a tear.
However, what we tend to forget in the middle of the storm and victimisation of all these people is that, first and foremost, the reason why their private life is in the open and in tatters is because they put it in this situation. They broke their promises, they abused the trust their spouse put in them to be where they are now.
No one forced them to go on that website, to use money to pay for anonymity. They are all grown-ups and when I agree there could be a couple of people who genuinely thought it was nothing but yet another dating website, all of them knew what they were willingly getting themselves into.
The very first reason why they are now facing with the prospect of losing everything, in addition to public humiliation, is them and their willingness to bet on their private life. So for them, the ride will be choppy because the question is: how far can you go in playing dumb, naïve, angry or outraged when you were the one who decided to secretly bet everything and throw the dice again when you had sworn to settle down? How far will the people sympathise or simply empathise with you?
I understand uncontrollable sexual urges of a one-time thing but to methodically pay, find a fake name, fill a profile and go on the pull, it’s more than just an urge. It’s compulsive cheating. I know I am sounding very self-righteous but haven’t they all agreed to marriage and instead of having the courage and honesty to break it, just lied and cheated?
Studying the economic and social background of these people, ready to pay for sex in a way, would be absolutely fascinating because I am pretty sure most of them come from backgrounds that have carved into their head a certain view of the world where marriage and emotional commitment in closely linked to social and financial status – cue Sam Rader.
Throughout my 20s, I have acquainted and slept with many of these, usually over 30 men:
- The weaklings whose education has pushed towards a marriage in which they are not happy anymore but will never dare break or try to fix because they “have so much to lose now”.
- The immature teenager pushing constantly toward anything socially forbidden and cheating provides the kick they need. The social taboo that is not punished by the law is too great to ignore before they eventually “take the fun out of cheating”…
- The deeply unloved ones. The ones who are in what I call pre-historical relationship where marriage is only the legal and social bed on which the male, as a sperm bank, will fecundate the female, the baby factory, in order to provide the country with its 2.7 babies it needs “to survive.”
There are many more and they all have in common their inability to take responsibility for their own life and happiness. They think they do by joining Ashley Madison but it came as a price and a fake name. And now, naming and shaming. Is it really happiness?
I have difficulties feeling empathy for these people for two reasons. The first one is physical: I find sickening the irony that these people who willingly jeopardised their private life are now asking for the right to be offended because it is facing troubles. If you want your sexual history to remain private, don’t put it on a website and the hands of strangers to begin with. It reminds me of the super injunctions taken by footballers to shut up the many people with whom they are cheating on their wife. Take the hit, you provided the bullet.
The second is because I do believe today’s society offers enough alternative to the single-minded view of marriage as the sole source of security and happiness for them to not have to rely on lies, deceit and alibis provided by a website in exchange for money. Yes, it is difficult to find these alternatives, I know. To fight against the principles of a society built on religion, to argue for the right to be together without the word “forever” and the prejudice of resenting the idea.
As a gay man who had to grow up in a world where marriage was forbidden, I had to find other ways to understand and picture long-time happiness but it does exist. However, it does take some courage (more than hiding one’s fucking strangers in motels) to stop always having a reason for cheating and to start facing the truth.
For me, there is a time in your life when you have to stop behaving like a teenager and blame the rest of the world for what is happening to you. When you are 15, you bow to pressure, cannot find it in you to say “no” and do try a cigarette, it is understandable but when you are 40, married for 15 years, you know you’re unhappy but the only decision you make is to lie and cheat, you cannot decently play the victim. You should have enough strength and baggage to take responsibility and not blame someone else.
I see people making these decisions everyday: some finding the strength to say to their spouse that they are not happy and want to divorce, some coming out and making a whole new life for themselves despite all the hurt and tears because they do understand that this is what it takes to be happy.
You cheat and you get caught? No matter the way (that’s another issue)…Well then, you just look down, take responsibility: beg for forgiveness or do make changes in your life. You especially do not go publicly to say that you are a victim of deceit and fakery when it all started because you couldn’t commit to truth and trust. No one is fooled. Yes, you are a victim when it comes to your address being published but when it comes to your squalid private life, you put it there and you bet on it, you just lost. No one truly has the cake and gets to eat it too. Except me, but I baked it.