Noel Biderman and Ashley Madison: Subject of Controversy

What do Bill Clinton, Frank Lee Gifford, John Edward, and Eliot Spitzer have in common? They’re public figures that cheated on their spouses, denied it at first to the media, but later confessed to it in the end. Most of all, their wives decide to, as the song goes, stand by their man. Maybe they should’ve enlisted Ashley Madison, a website “born out of an idea” by Noel Biderman during the Internet bubble burst in 2000, where married individuals or people currently dating are members in seeking a sexual relationship — physical intimacy and fulfillment — but not planning on leaving their marriages and families.

“We’re probably preserving relationships” Biderman states. “If you’re not getting the sex you want, then you’re going to stray. They’re [your spouse’s] probably going to stray because of you. You’re the one in the relationship.” Both Biderman and Ashley Madison has been the subject of controversy as well as one of the hot topics on talk shows such as The View, CNN’s Larry King Live, ABC’s Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and so forth.

The response has been mostly negative: accusing Biderman of breaking up relationships and destroying families while making money off it — not caring who gets hurt in the process once the unsuspected; significant other knows the truth about his or her adulterous spouse. But, according to Biderman, infidelity is innate because it touches every man, woman, black, white, Asian, etc. of all walks and areas in life. “The institution of marriage,” he continues, “isn’t working because we put too much emphasis on sex and monogamy.”

The membership of Ashley Madison continues to increase, as the number of cheaters has grown 200% so far in Michigan. However, with the economy in a recession, several couples have no choice but to remain legally married — though they cannot sleep in the same bedroom. With selling the house, living independently, and cost of legal fees, they will have to share paying the gas, phone, heating, and electric bills until they decide to legally separated and file for divorce, which isn’t an issue — for now.

Shows such as Desperate Housewives, BBC’s Mistresses, and popular daytime soaps features characters engaged in secret trysts outside of their marriage/relationship written as glamorous, romantic, exciting, and sexy at the same time, as they’re looking for an “escape” from their “comfort zone.” However, what Ashley Madison provides is more than sex, fun, and release; they offer people relationships that will bring passion more in their lives than their so-called “loveless” marriages.

Biderman believes that the rising tide of members in Michigan can be based on the fact that the state has been harder hit by the recession than other states: maybe mostly due to the automotive industry recently filing for bankruptcy. Because Michigan — including the declining Motor City called Detroit — is such a popular spot for infidelity (remember Kwame Kilpatrick?), he has created a huge marketing campaign to attract more people to Ashley Madison such as 30-second television ads, print and billboard signs.

Still, what would Noel Biderman say to his wife and their two young children about Ashley Madison? “I’d be honest with them” he responds. “She knows the difference between the businessman and the family man. This is just a business to me.” A business, which too many, is personal, because lives are involved where relationships are concerned — especially when there’s children put in the middle of it. In the end, though, we all have ourselves to blame is what Biderman confirms.

“If your relationship has strayed,” he goes on, “if your partner has strayed, then take a look in the mirror and look at the two people.

“For so many people, they love their spouses. Not everyone wants to leave their spouses. In the end, I’m providing an outlet.”