MANILA – Ashley Madison, the controversial dating website that helps married people have affairs without getting caught, is now available in the Philippines.
The 12-year-old website, which was founded in Canada, translated its famous tagline (“Life is short, have an affair”) to cater to the Filipino market.
It now reads: “Ang buhay ay maikli. Mangaliwa.”
The extramarital dating website Ashley Madison is now available in the Philippines. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Ashley Madison primarily targets people who are dissatisfied with their current relationships and curious individuals who want to play with fire. After creating an account, one is asked about his or her relationship status (single or attached), his or her gender preference as well as height, weight, body type (fit, average, etc.) and eye and hair color, among others.
The website also requires a member to specify the kind of affair he or she is looking for – options include “something short term,” “something long term,” “cyber affair or erotic chat,” “whatever excites me,” “anything goes” and “undecided.” Once the signup is complete, the member can also add a photo and a short description to his or her profile (samples range from the simple “hello” to “let’s play” and “I’m into anything and everything”), or fill in other personal details such as “languages” and “turn-ons.”
A person is asked to select what kind of affair he or she is looking for upon signing up. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Like most online dating services, Ashley Madison lets its users chat and send photos, files and virtual gifts such as flowers and chocolates to jump-start the extramarital affair. The website was created with the woman in mind with its name and feminine color scheme, but it is dominated by male members.
And while it opens a door to marital infidelity, Ashley Madison takes a careful step back and maintains that it does not directly encourage people to stray.
Ironically, the founder of Ashley Madison and the “King of Infidelity” – Noel Biderman – is happily married and has two children. The website’s European communications director and spokesperson, Christoph Kraemer, has been in a steady relationship for the past eight years.
“I haven’t used [Ashley Madison] yet, only professionally to check out the website… Personally, I can’t imagine having an affair right now after eight years,” Kraemer told ABS-CBNnews.com. “I know that I would be devastated and shocked if I would find out if my partner has one, because I believe that an affair shows that there is something fundamentally missing in the relationship… In our case, if there is something wrong, we would work things out.”
Kraemer argued that infidelity has been part of human nature for a very long time, and all they do at Ashley Madison is “provide a safe and discreet platform for consenting, like-minded adults.”
Pushing his point further, he claimed that the website “even helps save marriages.”
Christoph Kraemer, spokesperson of Ashley Madison, said he has only used the website as part of his job. Photo: Handout
“In the end, we are confident in saying that we do not endanger or break up marriages… Many of our members say, ‘I love my spouse but there is something that he cannot give me. So should I forever be unhappy because I feel unfulfilled, because I’m missing that part? Otherwise, my relationship is wonderful.’ They feel that by having that affair, they are happier and they are able to transport that happiness to their partner and make them better as a person,” he said.
“Others say they have an obsession to try something new and different. But after having an affair, they realized that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Some say their relationship with their spouses improved after having an affair. It’s like the spark and passion were reignited. And it’s very telling that in its 12 years of existence and 30 million members, not once have been been cited in a court case as a reason to get a divorce. We don’t endanger a marriage, we actually help save a marriage,” he added.
‘Filling a need’
The launch of Ashley Madison is expected to hit a lot of nerves in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation where people strongly believe in preserving the sanctity of marriage.
Television shows such as ABS-CBN’s remake of “Two Wives” and the defunct soap “The Legal Wife”, have been a hit among Filipino viewers for tackling extramarital affairs.
Kraemer, however, predicts that the country will become one of Ashley Madison’s Top 5 international markets for precisely the same reason.
“We’ve seen that in other markets that are conservative such as Switzerland, we do extremely well. In Catholic countries, we do extremely well, like in Brazil, Spain and Italy. And the Philippines unites all of those factors,” he said. “Plus, the additional factor is that divorce is illegal here in the country, which will be a new experience for us.”
Citing research from Ashley Madison, Kraemer noted that Catholics are “more adventurous in the bedroom” compared to people belonging to other religions.
“And another reason that was given in the study is that we have confession, so we can do things and then the next morning, wake up and feel sorry and go confess,” he said. “You just pray ten Hail Mary’s and everything’s forgiven.”
Kraemer went on to say that Ashley Madison will “fill a need for many Filipinos who are stuck in unhappy and dysfunctional marriages.”
“Filipinos are very hospitable, open, warm and happy people, but I would say that not all Filipino marriages fit that profile. And annulment is only within the privilege of a chosen few,” he said.
When asked how they are preparing to face the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Kraemer said: “We’re open to discussions. We’d love to extend an invitation for a dialogue and collaboration with the CBCP… We believe that we actually help save marriages. The last thing that we want for our business model is for people to divorce. So in the end, the CBCP and Ashley Madison share a common goal there, and we should rather be working together than be on opposing sides.”
Ashley Madison is currently available in 44 countries worldwide. But not all nations have accepted the entry of the controversial website – it has been banned in South Korea and Singapore.
After the Philippines, Ashley Madison will be launched in Turkey, a mostly Muslim country.
Why men, women cheat
In all of Ashley Madison’s territories, male and female members shared the same two reasons why they stray – lack of emotional intimacy and lack of sex life.
Kraemer said the only difference is that women prioritize the former, while men give importance to the latter.
“For women, their top reason is lack of attention, lack of being desired by their partner, lack of emotional intimacy. Whereas for men, they cite the lack of sex life as the number one reason,” he explained.
In the end, Kraemer said the key to maintaining a strong and happy marriage is maintaining a balance between routine and excitement. He stressed that couples who are secure in their relationships need not be threatened by Ashley Madison or any other dating website.
Links to profiles of other members of Ashley Madison are displayed on the website’s feed. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
“On the one hand, we want to have routine and customs because man is a creature of habit and that gives us security, which is what we are looking for. At the same time, men also want something new and exciting. So to combine these two is a very difficult enterprise. In order to come close to uniting these two opposites, I would say that communication is the basic link that you need and the relationship needs constant work. You need to let the other person know why they are special to you and what makes them special. Try to create shared experiences and wonderful memories together,” he said.
“No amount of advertising can convince anyone to stray if they’re happy in their relationship,” he said.