Ashley Madison and Public Injustice
So, Ashley Madison is a thing, apparently. A very gross thing that recently had a horrific data leak that’s likely to destroy the company’s shot at an IPO and core user base. The 37 million people who used the site to cheat on their spouses are unlikely to return en masse once their infidelity has been exposed to the world. And maybe that’s a good thing for everyone, except the company. Unsurprisingly, I’ve seen a number of really scornful comments across the internet regarding the data breach. Most of it has leaned towards the “cheaters never prosper” or “got what they deserved” sentiments. While I’m not surprised at this reception, I also think it’s unnecessary.
I’ve been cheated on three times during my dating history. I’ve never been an accessory to cheating and I’ve never cheated on any spouse of mine in any capacity. You might think, given that background, that I’m not empathetic to the victims of this data breach. And yet, I’m going to say something relatively unorthodox, given my position: we shouldn’t be wishing these people ill and we should feel bad that their credit card information, nude photos, and sexual fantasies are about to be exposed. Regardless of the supposedly just intentions of the site’s hackers, no one deserves to suffer such a social and financial trauma — full stop.
I don’t condone cheating on partners in monogamous relationships, but I also recognize that people cheat for a wide variety of reasons. Yes — some people are just assholes with no concern for the sexual and emotional well-being of their partners, but usually these cases aren’t so open-shut. Many people cheat because their emotional and physical needs aren’t being met or that they just want to be desired by someone for a change. While I certainly don’t agree with seeking such a thing while still being in a closed relationship (you should probably end things first), I also don’t think it’s fair to expect people to endure sadness or feelings of being unwanted in a relationship for the sake of monogamy alone.
Some people will tell you that once a cheater, always a cheater. I disagree. People do such a thing for a reason, and why they cheated matters. Talking about it can tell you a lot about a person’s needs and why their relationship wasn’t fulfilling them. Having these people (including celebrities, public officials, and parents) exposed to the world to be publically shamed does a disservice to their relationships and everyone who is privy to them — including their children.
Yes — Ashley Madison is a sleazy site full of people who were so sold on the idea of cheating on their spouse that they spent considerable amounts of time communicating with future sexual partners, while also advertising themselves as being *ahem* “open for business.” As a committed person, who hates the idea of being cheated on again, the nature of the site makes me really uncomfortable. Still, I’m not sure the public has the right to execute a form of social justice on these people.
Think about the most shameful thing you have ever done. The worst mistake you have ever made. How exactly would you feel if millions of people were aware and constantly reminding you of it? Pretty bad, I would wager. You may even consider doing something unwise or drastic in response. Color me overly-sympathetic, but I don’t think that’s a good thing.
I mean, usually witch hunts aren’t remembered in a positive light.
So, how should we respond to this whole situation? Well, for those of you with a chip on your shoulder from a particularly traumatizing cheating incident: crack a few jokes. Why not? Vent in a way that is somewhat constructive. Find the humor in a situation which unfortunately reminds you of the dark times. Just don’t wish these people ill. Don’t hope that their lives are destroyed by this hacking fiasco. No one is worth that kind of focused ill will.
I would say probably 90% of the world’s adult population has dealt with infidelity in one form or another during their lifetimes. Many of us have really unfortunate stories to tell (from multiple perspectives) that have helped in some way to define who we are today. That kind of baggage is sadly common. What’s important though is that we learn from it and move on. I’m sure the people who are about to have their financial information and sexual lives leaked are going to want to apologize, learn from this, and move on. As decent people, I say we give them that chance.