Let me introduce myself: my name is Gillan (not Gillian!) and I have a wonderful wife, three children and various pets. I’m a teacher, and in my spare time I’m most likely to be involved with my local church or writing articles (like this one).
All of this keeps my diary full to the point of missing out on activities that large numbers of others undertake all the time. Things like going to the gym, watching Game of Thrones and attempting to have an affair.
Perhaps my priorities are all wrong. I’m in need of losing an inch or two around the waist; I’m totally clueless when friends start talking about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and, according to the now notorious affair website Ashley Madison, life’s just too short not to look for another man’s wife to jump into bed with for my own sexual gratification. To be honest, though, apart from being less fit than I’d like, I’d rather live with the way things are.
Apparently, however, there are plenty of people who do feel like they’re missing out on the greener grass of another field. And that number is quite staggering.
When Ashley Madison was hacked back in July, the names of 37 million users were released, of which 1.2 million are registered in the UK. If that figure is true, then it would be equivalent to around 5% of the UK’s married population. However, following extensive analysis of the published data, there’s good reason to believe that the site has been producing vast quantities of fake accounts to inflate these figures. Of the active accounts in the UK, it has been reported that 700,000 belong to men and perhaps just 31 to women.
OPPORTUNITY FOR THE MASSES
Thanks to the allure of Ashley Madison’s promises, these men have bought into an expensive and futile fantasy. The closest that the vast majority of these users will get to having an affair will be replying to a female bot on the site designed to get them to fork out more money to be allowed to engage in a conversation.
But for each of these individuals, simply joining the site means that they have crossed the Rubicon: their thoughts of infidelity have gone from idle dreams to plans, then action and payment. Presumably all in the hope that their pent-up sexual desire might lead to a real experience.
The exposure of what has been going on behind the scenes at Ashley Madison reveals once again the way that the Internet has opened up a whole range of opportunities to succumb to temptation that in the past would have been unavailable to most. Internet pornography hasn’t suddenly created a generation who take pleasure from seeing naked people doing various things to each other – pornography of one kind or another has existed throughout history. But until the arrival of the Internet, access to it was limited for the average person. It’s the same situation for those searching for an affair online.
Now that the conventional social obstacles to starting an affair have been removed and with covert online liaisons so much easier to begin, is it any wonder that so many men – and to a lesser extent, women – find themselves unable to resist?
The conventional obstacles to starting an affair have been removed
SHOPPING FOR ADULTERY
In many ways, Ashley Madison’s founder Noel Biderman has followed the natural path of commodification and instant gratification that the web now offers. Need a pair of size six pink wellies by tomorrow morning? Amazon Prime will provide. Need an affair for Tuesday afternoon? Just sign up to Ashley Madison.
But some things (especially relationships) were never meant to be commodities. Biderman might say that no one is forced to use Ashley Madison, but he has offered a service that should never have been created. Trading on people’s broken desires for real intimacy by offering a casual substitute is as self-defeating as the pornographers who sell a fantasy world to millions of men every day. No one wins in this false economy.
And what of the hackers, who called themselves the Impact Team? Their aim may have been to bring Ashley Madison down and perhaps end the immorality of it all. But in doing so they also have blood on their hands, as unscrupulous individuals leverage the list of names for blackmail demands.
There is a certain level of hypocrisy in all of this from a spectator’s point of view. We demand that our leaders be open and honest and fall on their swords if they are caught out. We often enjoy the spectacle of watching others get their just desserts. But how many of those pointing the finger have never considered the idea of going behind their partner’s back if the chance presented itself? How many of us have our own assortment of secrets that we intend to keep locked away?
When Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’ (Matthew 7:1), he meant it. And when he said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matthew 5:28), his words are meant to make us look at ourselves, whether or not we have committed a physical act of betrayal.
PASTORS ON THE LIST
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Christians have fallen too. In the US and Canada, hundreds of church leaders and ministers have been exposed. Josh Duggar and Sam Radar, two high-profile ‘celebrity’ Christians, have gained the greatest attention, leading to public admissions of guilt. Most tragic is the story of New Orleans pastor and seminary professor John Gibson. To onlookers he was a happily married family man, but he took his own life after the website was hacked and his name found.
For Christians who outwardly espouse high moral standards, these falls from grace can wreck not only families, but entire ministries. The devil knows that the easiest way to ruin God’s work is to attack relationships at every level. He goes for our weaknesses and sadly, for many men in particular, sexual desire is the easiest way in.
In recent years men such as God TV founder Rory Alec, evangelist Todd Bentley and the British minister, author and speaker, Mark Stibbe have abandoned successful ministries as well as their wives and families for the sake of a relationship with another woman. These very public revelations are immeasurably damaging, having an impact far beyond those immediately affected.
Infidelity in figures
UK Couples say financial problems and a lack of work-life balance are the top things that threaten their marriage;
chose extra-marital affairs as a possible problem, just ahead of ‘not understanding each other’.*
Almost 60% of men and over
of women will cheat at some point in their marriages, according to Taylor and Francis’ US research on cybersex. However, other studies on the numbers of people who have extramarital affairs vary in their results.
Only 47% of people in France say that an extramarital affair is morally unacceptable, whereas
of people in Turkey and the Palestinian territories consider infidelity unacceptable.**
*Source: Office for National Statistics **Source: Pew Research
THE OLDEST TRICK IN THE BOOK
Ever since Adam and Eve tried to trick God by hiding themselves in the garden after breaking his command, duplicity, deception and leading a double life has been part of human nature. For evidence, one hardly needs to look further than the headlines of the last few months. Volkswagen share prices tumbled after their emission-dodging technology came to light. Former FIFA execs are being tried on corruption charges. Lord Sewel, head of standards in the House of Lords, was exposed for cavorting with drugs and prostitutes.
There’s nothing new here. Ashley Madison is a high-tech incarnation of an aspect of our humanity that is as old as the Fall itself. Jesus doesn’t mince his words about the solution. If our eye is causing us to sin then we should gouge it out. This is serious business; we need to do whatever it takes to stop sinful thoughts going any further.
For Christians, it is always hard to take in the news of another Christian’s indiscretion, because on top of everything else, they have often suppressed their relationship with God in order to justify their actions to themselves. Again, Jesus says: ‘Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God’ (John 3:20-21).
God’s light purifies us as we walk with him, but when we choose to deliberately do what we know to be wrong, we withdraw from a place where God can give us the strength to overcome our temptations. It is then that we start to build barriers between us and God, and others too. We might even try to subconsciously hide what we are doing from God. But, as Adam and Eve found, God is never fooled.
MARRIAGES UNDER PRESSURE
There are plenty of reasons why people consider having an affair. For some it’s simply the thrill of an illicit encounter. But it’s much more likely to be about a marriage strained to breaking point, as children, work and other commitments squeeze out quality time together. One partner complains of feeling unloved and undervalued, longing for their emotional or sexual needs to be met. It doesn’t take much in these situations to begin fantasising about escaping into someone else’s arms.
Christians are not immune to these pressures. No matter how prayerful we are or how often we read our Bibles, our relationships won’t function perfectly. Relationships need continual nurturing and constant communication to stay strong. When Paul tells husbands and wives not to deprive each other for too long to avoid temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5), he is acknowledging how tough marriage can be and the importance of both partners investing consistently.
No one wins in this false economy
There may be a handful of couples out there with wonderfully problem-free relationships, but I’ve yet to meet any. Those who are married (or heading that way) need to give each other permission to be honest about their struggles.
I’m hopefully sensible enough to know that when I’m finding my marriage a burden, I need to do something about it. Looking elsewhere is the last thing on earth I should contemplate. If anything, it means that I should be making more of an effort, rather than complaining to myself about what my wife is or isn’t doing. It probably means we’ve been neglecting our relationship and need to talk more, give each other some attention and encouragement, and pray.
We certainly don’t get everything right, but we stick at it because we recognise that we have committed ourselves to each other and that a hard-won marriage is far more precious than anything Ashley Madison’s fantasy escapism could ever hope to offer. Life is too short to waste it that way.
Why I used Ashley Madison
A Christian woman confessed to using the affair website live on Premier Christian Radio’s Woman to Woman show hosted by Maria Rodrigues
You signed up to the Ashley Madison website, why was that? I love God, I love Jesus. But I found that my husband and I were not on the same path. Although he’s a Christian now, he doesn’t actually attend church and we don’t read the Bible together. Being in a marriage that is one-sided Christian and the other not can be quite separating and quite lonely.
Were the other site users encouraging you to meet up with them? It was very much a ‘meet face to face’. You’d call it a coffee date; you’d go [for] coffee. Most of the men were very expectant of an intimate relationship even on that day. Or a week later; it could be very planned. I’d book a hotel…a day room in a hotel. Some wanted a long-term relationship, some didn’t. But I have to say, my behaviour has not been Christ-like. It was a very destructive path, a very sinful path, and it caused me nothing but pain and heartache.
Did you have any moments where you were worried someone would find out or spot you? I did. I was quite nervous if I went out for coffee with somebody. I also became quite secretive. I lied to people that I love to be able to get away with what I was doing.
What was it that made you decide that you needed to leave the website? I came to the realisation that the hole in my heart is a God-shaped hole. I got tempted and instead of turning myself toward my marriage, my family and my church, I turned away from it. I let myself get distracted, I took my focus off. I thought my loneliness could be filled by an intimacy with a man that wouldn’t come into my marriage but actually, of course, it did come into my marriage.
Hearing the news that hackers have released names of people who are currently subscribed – how did that affect you? It was pretty stomach-churning stuff. I mean, I had tried; I stopped going on the website about three months before, and I confessed to my husband. I decided that the truth will set me free. It was a massive decision.
Read the full interview at https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/I-m-a-Christian-but-I-joined-Ashley-Madison