Till Web do us part

Engaging online-cheating sites is a sick matrimony

In sickness, in health—and in seedy hotel rooms: Ashley Madison is there when your better judgment, and balls, are long gone.

In sickness, in health—and in seedy hotel rooms: Ashley Madison is there when your better judgment, and balls, are long gone.

Cheating is all the rage. Governors do it. Beleaguered reality-TV dads do it. Country-music cuties do it. There are even Web sites devoted to the pursuit of extramarital happiness.

Enter Since 2001, this dating site (which now comes with handy iPhone and BlackBerry applications) has served as a hookup portal for all smug marrieds who want to have sex with someone other than their spouse.

It’s not the first such service, nor will it probably be the last. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the Ashley Madison Agency’s grotesquely “humorous” attempt at exploiting infidelity by cashing in on society’s prurient inclinations—as well as its most sexist assumptions.

The site is currently pitching its wares on cable TV. One ad, which at first appears to be a warning against the dangers of one-night stands, is a cautionary tale of a hapless husband who wakes up from a booze-induced sexual encounter with a total hag whom, we eventually learn, is his wife.

And with her double chin and idiot smile, she is definitely a hag, most certainly not sexy.

The ad’s helpful, discreet tag line: “When divorce is not an option.”

The poor guy, how can you blame him for wanting to cheat?

Sorry, but I can blame him. This guy’s an ass—not just for cheating on his wife, but also because he’s too cowardly to get a divorce.

Sacramento’s certainly not immune. Sites such as Craigslist teem with enticing offers.

“I am looking for one woman for a long term relationship. I am married and prefer that you are too … I understand that we are not runway models and some meat on your bones does not discourage me……..I hope to meet you soon!!!!”

Really, how can you resist?

Perhaps it’s inescapable. After all, we live in an age in which the Mark Sanfords, Jon Gosselins and LeAnn Rimes of the world make philandering appear common, profitable even. But not everyone’s buying into it. In February, Ashley Madison created a stir with an ad NBC refused to air during the Super Bowl. In the clip, a woman is dining with her negligent husband, and by the end of the commercial she’s eyeing another guy in the restaurant, presumably dreaming of not just better sex, but amazing post-coital chitchat, too.

Of course, would it really be more admirable if the ads portrayed a woman who finally met a man who shared her love for obscure Russian novels?

No, but at least those ads wouldn’t seem so horribly backward.

Hey, keep it in your pants or don’t, I don’t care. The Ashley Madison Agency traffics in curiosity and cheap thrills (to the tune of more than 500,000 users per month), so perhaps I shouldn’t fault a business model that assumes people are forced to cheat because they’re stuck with grossly unattractive, inattentive partners. But it’s still enough to make me wish that marriage wasn’t legal for anyone—well, at least not advertising executives.