So, 37 million users…
Crumbs. That is more than the entire adult population of South Africa.
37 million users having, or looking at having an affair, using one website.
Does this mean that there are 37 million unsuspecting spouses? Okay, now the number has jumped to 74 million people. I wonder how many children are in these families? Let’s take and average of 2 children per family, just to be conservative. 148 million people affected by the 37 million users of ashleymadison.com. Now, we are not even counting the casualties of extended family circles or friendships. If we were to factor in those numbers, we could easily touch the mark of half-a-billion people.
That one website can have such power… What is even sadder is that it is an indictment on how we as humanity view family.
Now, studies tell us that about 4% of married couples consent to having “open relationships” – relationships where a diverse range of sexual experiences and partners are permitted. I intentionally use the word ‘permitted’, because it is a mutually agreed upon arrangement. But this is not the target audience. You see, open relationships have both parties of the marriage in the loop. It is a relationship-form by negotiation and which operates within mutually agreed upon rules and parameters. 4%, and the stats are that even the 4% don’t always last.
The home page of ashlemadison.com makes it clear that the target group is not those who are in relationships where these boundaries are negotiated and/or agreed upon. No, it is aimed at those who want to have a bit of ‘fun on the side’, without their partner’s knowledge. No, there are quite overt signs encouraging secrecy and deception. A ringed finger crossing lips, encouraging silence, the words ‘discreet’ and ‘Life is short. Have an affair’ are a long way off from targeting the 4%.
This week’s lectionary readings tell the story of King David, going for a stroll one evening. As king, he is the custodian of the covenant between God and God’s people. But then he slips up on the 10th covenant-agreement. He covets someone else’s wife. He crosses the line. He calls her in. Despite her being someone else’s wife and her being in a ‘time of cleansing’ after her menstruation, he sleeps with her anyway. Why? Because he can. Because he wants to.
Then all hell breaks loose. She sends news that she is pregnant. The hidden wine is seeping through the wineskin of deception. (Deception, as David gets to know, is not watertight…there are always a few holes where the truth leaks out). Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was a soldier in David’s army. He was putting his life on the line for this king who was sleeping with his wife. If only he knew…
David plans a cover-up. There is always a plan to patch the holes, isn’t there? David calls for Uriah and sends him home, hoping that after a long time in battle, he would at least sleep with Bathsheba. Bathsheba could then break the news to him about her expecting a child and he would think that the child was his. I wonder what David would have promised Bathsheba for her silence? Pity is, she would have had to walk around with this secret for the rest of her life. But that is not David’s worry.
Uriah is a man with integrity and deep conviction. He remembers his brothers-in-arms, that they were sleeping in the wild. So, he decided to rather sleep at the gates. Integrity trumps deception. David cannot have this and has Uriah killed in battle. He does so with another devious plan. Even this deceptive plan does not remain silent. It is there for generations to read in 2 Samuel 11. Wineskins of deception leak.
To put it differently in John’s words: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it”.
Fact is, and this is something I do not see on ashleymadison.com’s user’s agreement: nothing is discreet, especially not in today’s technological age. The truth will come out, sooner or later. And what then? Will ashleymadison.com simply wash their hands and say: “It’s not our problem…if you were happy in your relationship then your spouse would not have gone looking”. Sounds a bit like David coercing Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba in order to soothe his own conscience.
My take is this: Shine the light. Own up to mistakes. Seek help. Shut down this website. There ARE going to be casualties. Marriages WILL fail. Few will try and mend what damage has been done. Children will be shepherded into broken homes. Thanks to ashleymadison.com.
I wonder what the viability would be for spouses who leave their cheating partners to file a class-action lawsuit against Avid Life Media (owners of this and other sites) and claim for expenses related to psychological and medical damage, for loss of income, for loss of benefits like pension and medical cover… And even if they got a good compensation, the fact is, everyone still loses.