I hadn’t been on the site minutes that my screen blinked indicating I had an IM.
Stranger: Are you behaving yourself today?
Stranger: oh really? watcha doing?
Me: Well, let’s see, I’m on a website where married people can meet to arrange an infidelity. I’m married. Does it sound like I’m behaving myself?
It was autumn, 2008. After continued insistence from my (now ex-) husband that blogging is pointless, I decided to give monetization a shot. Show a capitalist a profit, after all — even if it’s only a dollar — and he will see the light. So I got on AdSense and slapped some ads on my blog.
After writing a post dealing with infidelity, the ads lit up with all kinds of products: devices to spy on your spouse online, books about how to tell if your spouse is cheating, ways to tell if your crush is harmless or constitutes an emotional affair, lonely housewife classifieds and, finally, a married dating service by the name of Ashley Madison.
Google tells you that you are not allowed to click on your own ads, but I couldn’t help myself. I was genuinely interested in the product. The notion of a married dating service immediately conjured two different trains of thought: 1.) GENIUS, and 2.) What the hell?
Not that I’m a connoisseur of infidelity by any means, but doesn’t this sound particularly risky? You may be on a site for like-minded people, yes, but you can’t see them! A person can be like-minded until the moment she realizes she’s talking to her brother-in-law. Then it’s all over, isn’t it?
So there I was. Logged in under a pseudonym in the name of research. And curiosity, of course. And loneliness, maybe.
ME: So tell me—why are you here?
HE: I need a playmate.
ME: And what kind of play would you expect from her?
HE: real life.
ME: Your profile says “conventional sex is fine.”
HE: meaning it’s better than what I’m getting now.
ME: Have you ever had an affair or are you just beginning to look?
HE: never actually done it, but I think I need to.
ME: When was the last time you had sex?
HE: and enjoyed it? over a year.
ME: How long have you been married?
ME: How do you like it?
HE: everything is fine… except the sex. that’s why I’m here.
He didn’t seem to mind the cross-examination. A little more probing indicated that while he and his wife did enjoy a sex life, she often orgasmed too fast, became tired and left him unsatisfied.
“Aren’t you afraid I could be someone you know?” I asked him. “I’m paranoid about everything.”
He sent me a key to his gallery of photos.
“Do you know me?” he asked.
“Would you ever meet me?” he asked.
“I’m scared,” I replied. I wasn’t lying.
I talked to twelve men over the course of an hour, with handles like CuriousGuy, Looking4More2, DoTh1s, badkarma, statistic. Most of them were like the one above — they had never had an affair, they were sexually dissatisfied at home, and a lot of them were unsure of how to proceed.
And then there was the chronic cheater.
“I haven’t been on here for a while,” he told me without introducing himself. “I don’t have time. But I’m taking a long lunch. Let’s meet for a nooner.”
“Do you just approach women like this when you come on here?” I asked, a little shocked.
“I don’t have time to chit chat. You’re here because you wanna fuck, I’m here because I wanna fuck, so let’s go fuck, you in?”
“Do you get a lot of ass?”
“As much as I can. You cumming or you wasting my time?”
“I’m wasting your time.”
“Think about it. I’ll hit you up again next time I come on here.”
What at first had appeared difficult and laden with all kinds of emotions was suddenly exposed as simple, as easy to schedule as a mani-pedi.
“Life is short,” the banner across the top of my screen read. “Have an affair.”
As I logged off, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would meet that day with someone they hardly knew, someone they thought could help them escape their reality, just for that moment.
And out of those, how many would feel satisfied afterward?
I never went back on the site. I hated it. I hated it not because I thought what was going on was immoral — I hated it because I was jealous. What I didn’t realize until long after my divorce was that I would have been happy to simply be lacking for sex. But for me sex is a complete experience. It’s not just something I can schedule and feel filled with. I didn’t want to just hook-up. I wanted a soul-quaking communion.
And that’s much harder to compartmentalize than a lunch-time romp.
Images in this post, top: AV Flox, back when she had killer abs in 2008… and a Gateway, whoa. Bottom: from the Ashley Madison Agency.