Ashley Madison: Protecting Those We Dislike

Recently, the site Ashley Madison was hacked and users’ personal data posted publicly (though much of this has been removed due to Ashley Madison’s use of DMCA claims to take the content down.)  Because the site caters to married people seeking extra marital sex (probably) without communicating this desire to their marital partners, this seems to have led to more humor than sympathy, at least based on Distractify and suchlike articles that show up on my news feed.  Facebook God said SMITE about it, Dealbreaker says the users are at fault for being stupid, and CNN has a headline calling it Christmas in July* for divorce lawyers.

I am uncomfortable with what I see as the level of humor and “well, they are adulterers and also stupid so why do we care” attitude that I am largely seeing as a response to this.  Not only am I not a fan of shaming and policing people for sex things (we have quite enough of that as it is), stealing people’s information from computers is illegal.  I’m okay nonetheless with stealing data from our government (particularly when that government is violating our fourth amendment rights) but stealing from individuals is not nearly as justifiable.  Even if the individuals are doing something that is nasty.  Laws aren’t much good if they fail to protect even the people we don’t like.


“Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.” ~Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

“I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.”~Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance

Yes, there is a suggestion that the hacker group Impact that is taking credit for this is upset about Ashley Madison charging $19 to erase personal data from the site and then not actually doing it, because that’s not cool.  However, an appropriate response to that would be to, say, delete their data.  Or, more legally, sue.  With a claimed user base of 37 million, surely enough claimants could be found who were willing to be seen as users of the site that it could be done, and it’s a much better approach than exposing a lot of individuals to unpleasantness as, for example, blackmail, and in the case of people unfortunate enough to work for religious organizations, job consequences.

Sure, cheating on spouses is not honorable, but it’s an age old problem (with age old associated humor, at least if Chaucer and Boccaccio  are any guide), and in most places it’s not illegal.  I don’t really know why it’s such an age old problem, though my off the cuff speculation would involve:

  1. Maintaining a relationship over time can be really hard.  Also monogamy is not for everyone.
  2. Marriage is promoted as one of the goals of adult life, including official lauding of its ultimacy by the Supreme Court, and laws are usually designed to make it easy to marry and hard to divorce.  Waiting periods for divorce are much longer than the same for marriage in many states, if a waiting period of marriage is even mandated at all.  There can also be a stigma about divorce, since I heard growing up that divorce was for people who just ran into one problem and quit and back in the good old days (TM) people stuck with it and worked on problems.

  3. Marriage still all too often means rigid gender roles and uneven division of labor, which is just bad for people.

Not that this makes cheating on a spouse more honorable, but a good public shaming is unlikely to help with any of these problems.  Or, for that matter, make people less likely to cheat.

 *Apparently we only care about the war on Christmas when it’s not July, and there isn’t anything like religion to distract from Christmas’ true meaning as a cultural reference everyone Christian and otherwise is expected to use and more importantly, an opportunity to get things and preferably money.
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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

1 Comment

  1. July 27, 2015 at 3:39 pm —

    Course, there is also the “default” assumption that sleeping with someone when you spouse knows, and approves of it, is still “cheating”. Err.. So, borrowing someone’s car is the same as stealing it? We treat are supposed “partners” as property, then, when it involves sex, we treat the situation in a way that we wouldn’t **even with** any other sort of property. They are “hyper-property”, or something, with all different rules, despite the fact that, other than the few times some moron has tried to make it illegal, said “property” has the right to walk away from you. Its ridiculous, and imho, stupid, and, honestly, if my car could “choose” to find another driver, because it didn’t like the places I took it, or got bored, we would see just as many people beating it with a bat, attempting to disown it, or jealously following it around, to find out who it was cheating on. We expect respect from other people, yet we act like children, or lunatics, when other people are involved.

    Yet, somehow, its people who try to keep their rather different view of what is a “normal” way of dealing with their sex lives out of the public, and discrete, as though they are personally attacking us, and therefore need to be tracked down and exposed. Why exactly? So those who object can do the equivalent of reverting to a 4 years old, and whine, “So and so has cooties!!!”? This solves what exactly?

    So, some food for thought to the people that think this was “just deserts”, or some such nonnsense: If you find your own “partner” visiting one of these places themselves, without you knowing it, well then “partner”, maybe the problem isn’t that such services exist. Maybe… you need to figure out what the F you are doing wrong, that led them to think they needed to use them. Or, here is a thought, maybe they are, as the article’s author suggests, just not in, nor ever will be in, a frame of mind, themselves, to be this silly thing called “monogamous”.

    Because, I have seen a discussion on the subject, and… wow does it get silly fast. Invariably, you get the “pure monogamy” buff babbling that its “totally impossible” for a person to truly develop serious relationships with more than one person at a time, and everyone else asking the clown who says this, “So… you have no close friends, you hate your relatives, you don’t speak to anyone form highschool, you ignore your coworkers, and otherwise have **no** close relationships with anyone at all, other than you wife/girlfriend/boyfriend?” Which is followed by, “Well, no, I do have strong relationships with them too, but its different!” To which is replied, “Yeah, but somehow you seem to think that when ‘sex’/’marriage’ gets involved its some special, magical, category, where ‘different levels of connection’ are impossible, and all of the rules for ***every other relationship you have*** get thrown out. Why?”

    There is never, ever, a coherent response to this last answer, just a nearly religious assertion that there **must be** such thing, because, despite everything from the ancient days when the same church that now claims monogamy is normal used to run the brothels, to romantic love being “what you did on the side, with a mistress”, to… you name any time in history, when humans have **never** manages this “special category” for sexual relationships, to which normal rules of varied friendship, or even casual encounter, has never existed, by god, there **must be** some sort of special rule for the person I have decided I, sort of, more or less, “own”.

    Snort.. Yeah, that is exactly the “special” category I imagine most of us want to find ourselves in…

    I think you know with which camp my sympathies, not to mention reason and hope for sanity, lay.

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