I Must Be A Prude - Online Personals Watch: News on the Online Dating Industry and Business

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Ross Williams

I hope that the CEO can run faster than right-wing middle America - if ever there was a website which risks a violent reprisal from a crazy victim of their services, that's it.

As far as I know, there hasn't been a physical attack on the founders of adult dating sites but if I was running that site I'd always be looking over my shoulder :o)

David DiSabatino

Rates of adultery in right-wing middle America are as high as anywhere else in the country. Besides, if the service is profitable, then right-wing ideology states that it must be good. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a commie. [/snark]

But Mark, about this sentence:

"Granted, other (mainly adult) dating sites have their 'discrete relationship' categories and I think that's to be applauded, but Ashley Madison is goading people towards infidelity with their billboard advertising and PR."

You think giving people the opportunity to cheat should be applauded, but "goading" them to it is over the line? That's a really interesting moral distinction.

Anyway, advertising a service isn't really a goad, it's just telling people where they can find what they already want more efficiently. I really have a hard time picturing a person who is otherwise happily married seeing an Ashley Madison ad and thinking, "Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea." So it's not that more people will cheat, but cheaters will be marginally more successful at it on a site like Ashley Madison. And that's the whole point of any dating service.

The fact that you and I would make different choices from someone who wants to have an affair doesn't mean their choices are wrong. Adultery aside, people make all kinds of dating decisions that seem dumb to me, decisions that seem likely to have negative consequences for themselves and others, but unless they're friends of mine it's not really my place to tell them what to do. People have to be free to make their own mistakes.

Mark Brooks

Hi Ross,

On the subject of attacks on adult dating executives...I'll never forget the first time I visited the offices of FriendFinder for the first time, in ~2000, to visit Andrew Conru. I was working for Hypermatch, an early version of eHarmony, at the time and was referred to him through a friend to discuss possible ways we could work together.

I walked into the marketing office and was walking through to his office and was a little taken aback to see a large guy in camouflage army clothing standing in a darkened, door-less office, off the tiny corridor. He was standing over his desk, phone in hand, looking rather menacing. I went through and met with Andrew and halfway through our meeting a policeman walked in and let Andrew know everything was ok. I had no idea what was going on, but when I joined FriendFinder in September 2003 I happened to mention the experience to some long timer FriendFinder employees and they were floored that I had happened to visit on that infamous day. Apparently the police were preparing for the guy to go 'postal' and had lined marksman on the roof of a building across the road. He was a former manager that had been let go, was disgruntled, and had come back for one last visit. Fortunately, he was ushered out of the FriendFinder offices without incident.

Hi David,

Most dating site executives would have a hard time creating a site that so directly serves the 'discrete relationship' niche in such a direct fashion as Ashley Madison. I'm sure many of their stomachs would turn at the thought of serving the niche with a dedicated site. Which is one of the reasons the niche is under served and very profitable.

The Ashley Madison Agency has added a clean veneer to the segment. It's not a 'sex' site. It's not touting itself as an 'adult' site. AM is an agency, of sorts, and charges accordingly. From a purely business perspective Ashley Madison is a brilliant little PR and money-making machine.

From a moral perspective, the site is abhorrent. But, that's why people talk about it. That's why the press latch onto it as intriguing and newsworthy...which again, is part of it's brilliance. I'm hard pressed to find a niche that I find more disturbing.

It's appropriate that adult dating sites list 'discrete relationships' as a category in the interests of full disclosure. Most adult dating sites have that category or something similar to it. So, I guess I must be a prude for not making similar moral allowances for Ashley Madison. They cross the line.

Do you think AM has a great business? Do they cross the line? Are they morally reprehensible?

The institution of marriage is being eroded rather rapidly around the world, especially in the Western hemisphere. Which is actually really good for the business of online dating. People are coming back around for another 'match' more often. And they want to get a better match. Online dating helps people get the tough questions out of the way first and more directly express their sexual preferences. In the case of Ashley Madison they are expressing their moral preferences early on, by being on the site. AM serves it's need. I'm just a prude.

Mark Brooks
Editor, Online Personals Watch

Tom Geller

I'm a newcomer in this field, and currently building a site to serve those seeking "friends with benefits". Ours is the opposite of AM: There's no way to indicate that affairs are to be "discreet", and editorial throughout the site makes the assumption that members' existing partners will know what's up. People who seek to "cheat" will (I hope) feel poorly served, while our target audiences -- polyamorous folks, swingers, singles, and partners with agreements -- will be encouraged by the air of trust and openness.

I know we're unlikely to hit AM's numbers with this strategy, but that's fine with me.

Here's the thing: I mentioned the site's development on a private email list of online entrepreneurs. One in particular had a strongly negative reaction. No amount of discussion could convince him that there's any substantial difference between our site and AM.

When moral condemnation is inevitable, there's no deterrent from going full-bore sleazy.

AM is, I think, clever in recognizing this. I sure as hell wouldn't date anyone who advertised there, as they're guaranteed to be a liar in relationships. ("Why no, that's not a herpes sore!")

Mark Brooks

I think anything goes when people 'opt-in' and are truthful with each other.

If one half of a couple feels they can't express their sexual preferences they need to try and gently educate their partner, and disclose their sexual preferences/fetishes/urges, and be prepared for open and frank discussion. At the end of the day, people appreciate honesty.

Mark Brooks
Editor, Online Personals Watch

Pat Dines

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a perfect world where everyone was happily married, went to church, always told the truth, and voted Republican (count me out of the last category). Maybe, but that’s not the real world. The real world is messy; it’s composed of 3-4% sociopaths, 4-5% homosexuals, bigots, hypocrites, born again Christians, Muslim fundamentalists, and last but certainly not least, people with all kinds of disorders (8-14% according to DSM-IV) that range from paranoia to perversions like stealing panties. Moreover, according to the latest studies coming from neurogenetics, most of this messiness lies in our genes because at one time, 50,000 years ago, being a sociopath might have helped you survive whereas today, it will either land you in jail (where 20-30% of inmates have personality disorders) or at the head of a major US corporation like Enron. So, can we blame people because of their genes? Whether we should or not, is not the issue. The question should be, do you want these people on your site? On Mary.com, we are trying to build relationships that work and infidelity is NOT a quality that we want represented within our membership. Therefore, we seek these people out who have that gene and send them to Ashley Madison where they can mingle with others who have the same need to cheat on their significant others. Better there, than here. Long live niche marketing.

Ross Williams

Ha, just seen this stat "~61% of Americans through adultery should not be a crime in the US." - does that mean 39% think it should be a crime?!?! I'm guessing that's a lot of "undecided" in that result, else that would be a scary stat!!

It's one thing to break a law - it's another to be encouraged to do so. That would be entrapment.

Very interesting to see what happens with AM - Mark please keep us posted on anything AM, they're very ballsy people there.

Not my cup of tea - there's always a scale trade off between money and ethics and I think they're closer to the money side than most.

But they're just supplying a demand - billboard advertising isn't cheap. Maybe we shouldn't be repulsed (or admire!) AM, it's the people attracted by that marketing who are responsible for it working.




I think there's nothing wrong with having a casual relationship as long as both parties are in agreement about it. Eventually though, somebody may develop feelings and that person will ultimately become hurt by the situation. So although I think there's nothing wrong with it I don't really think it's the best idea.

Passion is the element in which we live; without it, we hardly vegetate.
I also involved me in to the casual relationship club (casualfriends dot com/user/hottiecf) and I think eveyone have the the freedom to express themselves and spice up their life...


I quickly became a fan of Ashley Madison after reading about them on a site called "Affair Tips". I read some affair advice and then took the plunge and signed up.

One thing I noticed was that there was quite a wide variety of men to choose from. Almost like eating at a buffet!

Long story short, I had a affair and i think it might have made my marriage better. Crazy but true but my home life is much more tolerable knowing that I can find a men willing to give me anything I want and whenever I want it, and they are just a click away.

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