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Noel Biderman, the CEO and founder of married-person dating website Ashley Madison (tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair.”), like any observer of powerful men in America, was not all that surprised by Anthony Weiner’s obsession with cyber sex, but he does appreciate the extra business. Biderman told Runnin’ Scared that every time there’s infidelity in the news or popular culture, he sees an uptick in users and traffic for his site, whether it’s the Kennedys TV movie, Desperate Housewives, Weiner, Schwarzenegger, or Edwards. “We always do,” he explained, “because in some ways it grants license to something that’s already commonplace.” If you count cyber relationships as infidelity, which he estimates 9 out of 10 people do, along with strip clubs, massage parlors, and the like, Biderman contends that a majority of Americans are not faithful to their partners. The stupid part is that they get caught. “When are people going to learn that the digital lipstick is what gets you busted these days? It’s not the lipstick on your collar.”
Weiner appears to have attempted to disguise his Yahoo! email address, which he used to sent flirty and naughty photos, with an online anonymity service called invisible, but obviously he wasn’t very good at it. An accidentally public tweet started this whole thing.
Biderman explained that on his more secure site, when someone creates a profile they are asked if they’re looking for a long-term affair, something casual or something cyber-only. He estimates that 10 to 15 percent of people check the “cyber” option. “Do some cyber affairs evolve into real life? Sure,” he said. “Who is faithful in America?”
But in his educated opinion, women are more likely to forgive a one-time physical affair than prolonged intimate correspondence. For men, he said, usually it’s the opposite.
Ashley Madison gained notoriety in 2007 with giant “Life is short. Have an affair.” billboards in Times Square and Beverly Hills. After that, Binderman said, it was their open letter to Elliot Spitzer and offering Tiger Woods a spokesman job that upped his site’s profile most. And so with events like Weinergate, Binderman is automatically considering how to capitalize.
“When I started, I didn’t want to convince anyone to have an affair,” he explained. “I wanted to convince them to not have it in the workplace or to use digital products that leave a trace.”