I don’t think there is any topic, absolutely any topic ever, that is more controversial than sex. In addition, I don’t think there is any single rule in our lives, in our society, and in our culture, greater than the sanctity of marriage. You can do anything you want, steal, kill, or kick the cat down the stairs, but do not, under any circumstances, ever violate the fidelity of your relationship. Yes, you can do anything: not love your spouse, not like them, not spend time with them and ignore them, psychologically abuse them, (maybe) even physically abuse them, but for heaven’s sake don’t cheat.
Are you unfaithful? You are weak. You are a sex addict. You are the lowest of the low. You should rot in hell. You should be taken out, shot, and pissed on. You should be quartered in the square and afterward, the pieces sewn back together so you can be tied to a stake, doused with gasoline, and set on fire. Then the ashes should be ground up into a fine powder and your remains should be flushed down the toilet.
A little extreme? Am I being hyperbolic? Think again. When I read the vitriol directed at anybody who has violated the 6th commandment (number six as per the Catholic church), I realise the holiness of this rule and the shame associated with our sexual desires is so profound, so engrained in our culture, it has pervaded every part of our collective psyche. It has left us deranged, afflicted with a cultural schizophrenia, caught between our natural instincts and rules of conduct even a saint can’t follow. (Dear Pope, how ya doin’ with your priests?)
On social media, when the Ashley Madison story first broke, I ran across the following headline:
MSN – July 20/2015
Hackers threaten to expose secrets of 37 million Ashley Madison users by Sara Sjolin
Underneath the headline, I saw this comment:
“I'd like to shake the hand of whoever is behind this.”
However, that was the tip of the iceberg.
MailOnline - Jul 21/2015
Ashley Madison hackers have done us all a favour! By Catherine Cooper
One outraged wife says its members DESERVE to be outed so duped partners can learn the truth about their marriages
The gut reaction to Ashley Madison goes on in dozens of newspaper articles, blog entries, and social media postings vilifying what is considered the ultimate betrayal of trust. There is no excuse, no justification, and no acceptable explanation for this violation of the most sacred of personal bonds between two people. Take that you lyin’ piece of cheatin’ dogs**t. May you contract syphilis and the head of your privates turn into a festering abscess of hell fire burning pus... Oh. Sorry. I got carried away.
My grandfather, Logan, was born in 1900, a different world, a different era. He married my grandmother Gloria in 1926. In 1927, my aunt joined the family and my mother arrived in 1929. In 1937, Gloria unexpectedly died. My aunt and my mother were left motherless at the ages of ten and eight respectively.
Logan eventually remarried and pictures of Hazel showed a woman who, on the outside at least, appeared to be a vivacious woman. Logan soon discovered that Hazel had been raised in a puritan environment and taught that sex was bad and to be avoided at all costs. The second hand story through the family grapevine is that Logan had sex with Hazel twice, the second time resulting in the birth of a third child, a son.
On my mother’s wedding day in 1951, Hazel explained to her the facts of life: men were disgusting creatures of evil lust and only wanted one thing from a woman. My mother told me that this was the only time she had seen her father raise his hand to Hazel. He apparently slapped Hazel, then took Mom aside and described how relations between a man and woman can be warm, loving, and sexual. My parents, by the way, were married nearly fifty years, until my mother’s death from cancer.
Years later, it came out that Logan had a lover, a woman about his own age. I know nothing about the woman and her circumstances, other than she was at the time single. When Logan died prematurely in 1967 from a cancerous brain tumor, the woman asked Hazel if she could come to the funeral. Hazel refused.
It is a sad story. Logan remained married all his life. He didn’t get a divorce. In those days, people didn’t get a divorce; they soldiered on. Today, would he have joined Ashley Madison? Would he have gotten divorced?
I suppose I could easily describe Hazel as a frigid woman, a harpy, but thanks to a Puritanical up-bringing, she was denied one of the most important joys of being a human being, her sexuality. I’m guessing Hazel never had an orgasm in her entire life. She never “got it”. She never understood why men and women get together. She never understood desire; she never experienced passion. Her mother and/or her father destroyed any chance she had of understanding the meaning of life.
I remember my grandfather as a kind, gentle man. He loved his family; he loved my mother; and he loved me.
My grandfather was unfaithful. My grandfather was a cheater. My grandfather was the lowest of the low, a contemptable weak man of uncontrollable urges who deserved to have his name splashed across the front page of the newspaper as punishment for his crime, the ultimate of sins.
I feel sorry for Logan my grandfather. I feel sorry for Hazel my grandmother. Life isn’t always easy, but life is short. We don’t always succeed. We make mistakes. But we hope. We desire. And we risk it all for a kiss. We want to be reminded of what it’s like to feel alive.
The moralists are pure as driven snow
It is important that all of us put this in perspective. I would suggest that you, the reader, understand this perspective by clicking here, here, and here.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Do you consider yourself an upstanding citizen? Are you law-abiding? Are you pure? Above, I provided links to the top three pornography sites as per a list compiled by Buzzfeed. Your IP can be traced back to your service provider and that IP can be connected with your name along with your address.
Don’t believe me? Check out the trace of your IP here or here. Without much effort, somebody can pin you on the map. Don’t look now, but there’s a van with a dish on the roof pulling up in front of your house as we speak.
Here’s my question: How would you like it if a hacker. the IMPACT team for instance who are threatening to out Ashley Madison, decided you should be outed for your transgressions and your name be published to the world as an aficionado of all that is naughty? Somebody else, a total stranger, has tried you, judged you, and found you guilty and decided you must pay for your sins. Rather God-like, wouldn’t you agree?
It’s a crime
From what I understand, the hacking of Ashley Madison is more than likely an inside job. Exposing all these names is not for truth, justice, and the American way; it is a personal vendetta against the company and maybe the concept of infidelity. And it is possibly an attempt at extortion.
When Sony pictures was hacked over the film The Interview supposedly by North Korea, we looked upon it as an act of terror carried out by an evil dictatorship. When Target stores was hacked and 40 million credit cards numbers were stolen, we looked upon this as theft on a grand scale. When Ashley Madison is hacked, we look upon this as a good thing and everybody involved deserves his or her fate.
Let me get this straight. Person A is robbed. However, you like person A, so the robbery is a crime. Person B is robbed, but you don’t like person B, so the robbery is okay if not justified.
The Register – July 21/2015
Ashley Madison invites red-faced cheats to bolt stable door for free by John Leyden
Will Gragido, head of threat intelligence research at Digital Shadows, suspects the motive of the attacks might ultimately move towards ransoming off stolen information. Unlike a recent attack against Adult FriendFinder, another hookup website, very little data from the latest hack has surfaced online - suggesting that attackers are holding onto it for later criminal abuse, Gragido reasons.
"What is most striking about this incident is the attackers' demand that the business of Ashley Madison itself shut down," said Gragido.
"This is very ominous because it takes us down a slippery slope: What type of business will adversaries deem 'objectionable' next, and demand its closure, in addition to holding its customers hostage with their stolen, personal information?" (my bold)
You think you’re okay, but that person disagrees
Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, believes in abstinence-only sex education. Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies in the United States. Planned Parenthood is a laudable organisation providing a variety of services, some sexual, to a number of people, some who couldn’t afford otherwise. The Conservative end of the political spectrum is hell-bent on closing it down. Women are workers, mothers, partners, and empowered. Facebook continues to censor the female nipple but allows the male nipple to be shown.
You think you’re okay. Somewhere, someone disagrees with you, disagrees with what you do and what you believe. You think you’re okay, but they don’t. You condemn Ashley Madison? There are people who condemn you.
In June 2014, I wrote "An oddity about Infidelity" in which I looked at two articles from Divorced Moms dot Com. In the first article, where the guilty party is the husband, the wife could not be held responsible because she apparently did not know anything was wrong. In the second article where the wife is the guilty party, the husband apparently did not know anything, but the author goes on to say that experts agree both spouses play a role in infidelity and asks how did the husband contribute to his wife's affair.
I won’t comment on the curious paradox between the two articles: man guilty, woman guilty but with an explanation. I will, however, point out the complexities of the issues. Can we talk openly and honestly? I don’t believe we can. Why? Because we’re afraid. You may say “Get over it,” but if it was that easy, it would be done by now.
In my blog posting "Sex, Parenting, Life: Do we know what we're doing?" (Jan 12/2014), I point out that in our society, the collective we has set up procedures to follow concerning various activities. To drive a car, I must take driver's ed and pass a test. To perform brain surgery, I must get a medical degree, do an internship, and pass an exam. However, there are three things I can do which are considered a fundamental right meaning I never have to prove I am capable of doing them: have sex, get married, and be a parent by bringing a child into the world. I can be totally incompetent, but I still have the right to do any one or all three of these activities.
Now, the rest of us sit back and wonder why people are lousy at sex, have no idea of how to be a married partner, and royally suck at raising kids. Thank God there’s a driver’s test or the majority of people would be crashing straight into brick walls not knowing what the brake is for.
In writing this article, I ran across a TED Talk by Ms. Perel “Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved”. The video is below in the References section. It is a thought-provoking look at the entire question of partnering with anybody. The issue is complex. Our motivations are numerous. This is not as clear-cut as good and bad or black and white.
Affairs are an act of betrayal, and they are also an expression of longing and loss. At the heart of an affair, you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity, a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves or an attempt to bring back vitality in the face of loss and tragedy.
my blog: Two-thirds of divorces are filed by women - Apr 19/2011
Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D., clinical psychologist and marriage counsellor, points out that many of the reasons like physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behaviour, fraud, or other serious grounds are down the list. The number one reason for a woman filing for divorce is neglect.
If at one time two people got married for all the usual reasons hopefully including love and passion, what happened? Where did the spark go? And if you’ve lost it, can you get it back as Esther Perel has suggested elsewhere? (my blog: Esther Perel: Is this woman on to something? - Mar 12/2013)
I throw the following in not as a definition per se, but as food for thought.
Adult Match Maker - Jul 31/2015
Reflecting on Affairs: the Fantasy and the Fallout | Intimacy & Sex by Eva Sless
It is curious to read this woman's analysis of the Ashley Madison incident. She says that she has never cheated on her husband.
I myself have an open marriage and my husband and I often play with other people (together and separately) but there is always an openness about it.
Think about that. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I’ve never cheated on my husband and yet I have sex with people other than my husband. Infidelity isn’t about sex; it’s about betrayal. True? False? 50-50?
Recently, a 40-year-old woman told me a story about her parents. Apparently, Dad was a bit of a ladies man. And the woman suspected that Mom too had her adventures. The point was that Mom told her daughter a woman should never complain if her man comes home and loves her. The suggestion was that sex is sex; sex is a need; but what’s important is coming home and love. Was this an early form of an open marriage?
I have read a number of articles written by divorced women for other women divorcing or post-divorce. It’s fascinating to see a 180-degree change in attitude. If during marriage sex with your partner and only with your partner is sacrosanct, after marriage all bets are off, everything is on the table, and the goal in life is to fit in as much fun as possible to heck with traditional morality.
Divorced Moms - Jul 30/2015
8 Reasons Divorced Sex is Better Than Married Sex By Real Mom
At the end of my marriage, my sex life was pretty much the same thing over and over and over. We had our way of doing it and sadly, it just got into a comfortable routine. There was zero romance and for me, there wasn’t any desire left. To be honest, I had to make myself have sex with him just so he would leave me alone for a few days and quit asking for it. Since my divorce was final about a year ago, I’ve had casual sex with 3 men, and let me sum it up with one word…HALLELUJAH!!!
The IMPACT Team has committed a crime. You cannot distinguish between Sony Pictures, Target Stores, and Ashley Madison based on what you think is moral, or you go down the slippery slope where you step in and start enforcing your ideas of what’s socially acceptable on everybody else. (Hello far right and Christian fundamentalists.)
At last count, 37 million people are apparently members of Ashley Madison. That’s 37 million people who are not happy. That’s 37 million people who are looking for something which is missing in their lives. Do you condemn them or do you pity them? Do you disgrace them or do you help them? Do you vilify infidelity or do you work to ensure we contribute to a culture where infidelity is not necessary?
I am a peace, love, and understanding type of guy. I believe everybody wants to be happy. And I believe they want to have passion in their lives and passion in their relationships. Unfortunately, knowing what you want and knowing how to get it are two different things. Outing Ashley Madison is like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen. The issues were created a long time ago.
And on a final note, I would add that people in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones. Someday, somebody could very well out you.
Update: August 19/2015
Gizmodo - Aug 19/2015
The Ashley Madison Hack Is Only the Beginning by Mario Aguilar
Yesterday, hackers dumped 9.8 GB of data that’d been previously stolen from ashleymadison.com, including information and transaction details for the site’s 37 million users... [comparisons with hacks of Sony, Target, and United States Office of Personnel Management... release of nude celebrity photos associated with “The Fappening”]... the breach was a terrifying reminder that intimate details of your life too could one day be plastered on the web.
I can’t imagine the desperation these people feel. But set aside, for a moment, that many of them are less-than-moral individuals who perpetrated secret infidelity. Look beyond your own feelings about the morality of the site that was hacked. The implications of this mass revelation should horrify everyone, regardless of how you feel about Ashley Madison.
You submit information online under the illusion that no one is ever going to see it—even if you know better. For the most part you’ll be safe, but as we increasingly entrust more and more of our private selves to inherently fallible digital service providers, devastating leaks like The Fappening and the Ashley Madison breach are going to happen more and more.
Update: August 29/2015
CBC - Aug 29/2015
Ashley Madison's members by the numbers by Daniel Schwartz
Now that data analysts and number-crunchers have had about 10 days to pore over hacked data from infidelity website Ashley Madison, fascinating but somewhat suspect findings are coming out.
- 37 million user accounts.
- 5.55 million accounts are marked female (about 15 per cent of all profiles).
- 12,000 profiles seem to be about women who are active on the site. Most of female profiles appear to have been abandoned very soon after they were created.
- Over 9,000 accounts with female profiles had ashleymadison.com email address, while just 1,000 had male profiles or no gender specified.
- 68,709 female profiles had an IP address that suggests they were created on one of Ashley Madison's own computers, compared to 12,069 male or no-gender-specified accounts.
- 1,492 women had checked the messages in their Ashley Madison accounts. Two-thirds of the men had done so (20.3 million).
- 2,409 women had engaged in chat on Ashley Madison, compared to 11 million men, or about one-third of the men.
- 9,700 women replied to a message from an Ashley Madison member, while nearly six million men had done so.
No. 1, Misfortune from Augustus Egg's Past and Present, 1858
The Honest Courtesan - Jan 30/2011
Ashley Madison by Maggie McNeill
I find Ms. McNeill to be an astute observer of life. I respect her. As a former sex worker, she brings experience to the table and here she describes the reality of Ashley Madison and its questionable business model. Humorously and seriously, she points out that free pussy is more costly than pussy you pay for. Amen.
Psychology Today – Aug 3/2015
Happily After Ashley Madison: The Redemption of Infidelity by Joe Kort, Ph.D., LMSW, psychotherapist
Infidelity is the number-one reason couples come to me for counseling. ... Affairs don’t necessarily indicate a bad marriage. People cheat for myriad reasons. Some of my clients have told me they cheated because they were too afraid or ashamed to talk to their partner about their sexual preferences or fantasies. They may have cautiously suggested a sexual practice that was met with disbelief, disgust or accusations of perversion, and vowed never again to bring up the subject. However, suppression of a fantasy or desire, as the majority of therapists will acknowledge, does not rid the person of the desire. In most cases it simply shoves it into the unconscious where it will eventually come out in inopportune, inappropriate, and destructive ways.
my blog: Esther Perel: Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved – Aug 4/2015
Video of TED Talk with transcript
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