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Noel Biderman knows how to sell his brand: his AshleyMadison website currently boasts more than 4.5 million aspiring cheaters. He’s not one of them, of course. (Photographer: paulbuceta.com)
Noel Biderman knows how to sell his brand: his AshleyMadison website currently boasts more than 4.5 million aspiring cheaters. He’s not one of them, of course. (Photographer: paulbuceta.com)

Q&A: Cheaters Prosper

Meet the man behind AshleyMadison.com Add to ...

Do your members end up staying with their spouses?

The vast majority of our members stay with their wives. Their infidelity never gets discovered. People use a service like mine or have an office romance or go to a singles' site or visit a prostitute or a massage parlour, and it tends to keep them in their relationship longer. If they couldn't do those things, they would surely leave their marriages.

Does that not create huge issues around trust?

I think people lie for real reasons: They were lying because they were trying not to hurt their partner. People are unhappy. They're trying to make themselves happy and in so doing they sometimes complicate their lives and they sometimes alleviate problems.

Does your site give people opportunities they otherwise might not have had?

I'm not going to be naive enough to say that I haven't created this service. I still maintain I'm not going to convince anyone to have an affair with my commercials. They're going to have an affair because their life isn't working for them. It's not so much about me.

What's the gender split between your members?

It's about 70 per cent men, 30 per cent women. The men are almost all attached, but there are some single men on the service. On the female side, probably about 30 per cent are single women, that quintessential mistress.

Who is Ashley Madison?

I was confident that this service would attract men. I was less sure that women were going to behave in that fashion. From day one, I wanted to design a service that had a look and feel that made women feel comfortable. In 2000, the most popular girls' names were Ashley and Madison. I thought if women were naming their children that, they'd have some affinity for that branding. It's a fictitious individual. I suppose I could have called the site "Cheat on Your Partner." That didn't feel right to me.

You'd think you wouldn't put children and cheating together.

No, it's not about children - it's a subconscious thing. Ashley Madison is just a persona that women feel comfortable with: 'Oh that's a pretty name, that's a nice name.' That's what I was attempting to accomplish. It had nothing to do with children.

Are you married?

I am happily married, yes, for seven years.

Do you cheat?

I do not cheat, no. I've been faithful to date. I don't know what I would do if I was in a sexless relationship. I'm in a very good marriage, but if I wasn't? I don't know what I would do.

What does your wife think of Ashley Madison?

I think the important thing for her is that there's a big distinction between this public persona that I've now become and me being a really dedicated partner and parent. I'm home every day for dinner and I'm really devoted. I suppose, ironically, she's getting this ancillary benefit. If anyone should be conscious of what it takes to have a healthy marriage and avoid these pitfalls, it should be me since I talk about it 24/7. To be frank, she has definitely said to me, 'You're a bright man, Noel. Is there nothing else you could turn your attention to?' But this is what I've chosen to do at least for now, and so far so good.

How would you feel if your wife cheated on you?

I'd be devastated, I truly would. I don't know what would happen to our relationship, but I do know one thing: I would not blame an inanimate object. I wouldn't blame a website she met them on or a hotel room she had the relationship in. I don't think I would blame the person she had the affair with and I ultimately would probably not even blame her. I would take a long look in the mirror and figure out what I did wrong. It's about accountability. If my wife strayed then clearly I had a role to play in that.

But you write that cheaters are often narcissists, people who feel inexplicably entitled to more.

For sure there's data out there that there are certain personality types that are more likely to stray. Those people are probably going to cheat no matter what, and they could be in the most loving relationship.

Is this book your justification for Ashley Madison?

I don't feel like I need to justify this service. I think the service speaks for itself. It has so many members, there's obviously a lot of demand for it. Do we not benefit from Ashley Madison's existence? A community of like-minded adults where everyone knows what they're getting into? I sleep well at night. I don't have a problem in the end with my neighbour using my service, my friend using my service. That's for them to decide.

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