Ashley Madison documentary exposes Aussie cheating truth

There’s a moment in the fascinating new Ashley Madison documentary on Netflix that really surprised me.

Documentary – Title Sex, lies and scandal – follows the dramatic twists and turns of a notorious dating site aimed at married people who want to be discreetly unfaithful. Their infamous slogan was: ‘Life is short, have an affair.’

Surprise was my reaction to the founders when they launched what was at the time a very controversial new dating site to the media. I was determined to despise and disagree with everything they said as I believed it was a very unethical and cynical way of making money.

But as I listened to their opening remarks, my views softened. I found that they even almost half convinced me.

Certainly, in today’s modern world, where we live longer and faster, the promise of monogamy forever may seem quaint at best.

At worst, it seems as if tradition forces us to accept unrealistic expectations that are no longer fit for purpose in modern society.

These expectations of strict lifelong loyalty seem idealistic to the point of utopian and an antiquated, stiflingly conservative relic of a bygone era.

I certainly can’t get everything I need from one man for the rest of my life. And that feeling is liberating, not something for which I should be sanctimoniously condemned under the insidious guise of ‘family values’.

Of course, if you have made a solemn promise to someone, you should do your best to fulfill it. But perhaps we should attack the promise itself—not the person—when things go wrong, as they often do.

Some affairs are consensual in polyamorous relationships; in this case they are not ‘cheating’. Some affairs – let’s be real – rekindle bad relationships that would otherwise have ended.

Others make someone realize that they are actually in a toxic, abusive, or sterile relationship when they are reminded of a long-forgotten respectful adoration of another.

Not to sound like an adultery freelancer, but I know and love friends and family members who have had affairs and I don’t think of them any less than human beings; they are fallible and relationships are complicated.

But it took me a long time to learn it. If you want to live in the real world, you have to get off your high horse.

But then—spoilers ahead—any affection I felt disappears.

A vlog-writing Christian husband who preached to us all about following God’s word on such matters is shockingly revealed to be a lying hypocrite who assaulted his wife’s close friend and had an Ashley Madison account.

So, with all this hypocrisy, dishonesty, and the great American conservative shrink, the Canadian site paints a pretty bleak picture of modern dating across the Pacific.

But, believe it or not, things are just as bad, in some cases worse, in our own backyard.

Australia’s dating media culture is named the world’s worst in a documentary.

After one of the most scandalous data breaches the world has seen, 2015 saw the dramatic hack of Ashley Madison. Hackers ‘The Impact Team’ have threatened to reveal who exactly is on the site if it is not shut down. They followed and did so.

The results were devastating. Families were destroyed. Some users have faced extortion and bribery.

And yet. Only one country featured in the documentary was asked to broadcast such revelations live: Australia.

For Fitzy and Wipp, it was a game. Listeners were invited to call in and find out live if their spouse was on the leaked Ashley Madison account list.

One woman, Jo, does.

It may sound odd to get on the phone about such matters, but I’m not going to blame the victims for being vulnerable here. The manufacturers should know better.

When the hosts, after gleefully saying they feel like they’re on Jerry Springer, reveal that her husband had the account, Jo is clearly very hurt and devastated, and then hangs up. This full audio is now being played around the world to show how some parts of the Australian media fail when it comes to reporting the trauma and vulnerability of dating.

But when it comes to modern dating, some Australian dating sites use questionable tactics.

Journalist Annalee Newitz, editor-in-chief of Gizmodo, analyzed the leak and revealed that Ashley Madison has more than 70,000 bots that send male users fake female messages.

The documentary reports that the site greatly inflated the number of women and suggests that the vast majority of users were male.

Cathy, a former Ashley Madison employee, says she knew there were many fake women’s profiles and that most messages from women to men came from Ashley Madison staff or from bots to get men to pay membership fees.

Men have to pay to respond to women’s first messages or initiate conversations, which women don’t.

One commenter called it “predatory” and that they “charged men for the privilege of lying to them.” perhaps ironic, given that they themselves probably lied to their spouses.

The opposite seems to be happening in some Australian dating agencies. I know because I spent six months researching recruitment agencies in Australia.

I spoke to 10 women to investigate and discovered that they had all paid the same Australian introduction agency over $5,000 for a year’s membership and the promise of being introduced to “high caliber”, “sophisticated and stylish” clients who would “not be seen on dating apps’.

One woman did not go on a single date in six months of membership. I found at least four cases of successful refund claims by women, all fought in court because the agency didn’t do what it was contracted to do – in one case, a woman didn’t get a single successful introduction in five months of membership. Another woman only went on one date in five months. A woman whose reputation was tarnished in court for demanding a refund told me that it led to suicidal thoughts.

One woman was introduced to a man who said he had not been a member for six years. Another of her dates was between jobs and houses, the opposite of the caliber of man she was guaranteed for such a high membership fee. A third man also said he was a dropped member.

One man I spoke to said he was sent free demos.

The owner of the agency refuted the claim that some men pay nothing for membership and that they struggle to maintain a healthy year-round ratio of men to women in their database.

Only one woman out of ten I spoke to was engaged because I met a man through an introduction agency.

I heard similar stories at another gay agency. One man paid $7,500 for a membership and went on just one date in 18 months after chasing an agency or being sent unsuitable matches, such as a man in Melbourne – when he lived in Sydney.

These are disturbing stories.

The people who are supposed to help you find the love of your life say what they need to pay membership fees to their dating sites.

Before you judge those who have been unfaithful, perhaps consider those who benefit from heartbreak and disappointment – and consider who the real villain is.

Gary Nunn is on X. Subscribe to his free substack.

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