When news broke on July 19 that the user database of the website Ashley Madison had been compromised, public moralizing kicked into high gear. Some people were eager to know whether their spouse had stepped out on them; and people who had cheated (or even just been curious about cheating) worried that they might lose all that they hold dear.
Does cheating hurt people? Well, lying often hurts people, as does depriving people of their right to consent in their own relationships. Still, the Ashley Madison data breach highlights that many people simply will not be monogamous, despite strong social pressure and practical risks.
People need better choices than monogamy vs. cheating. This is why we need greater awareness of ethical, mutually consensual alternatives to monogamy — and, for that matter, alternatives to other hallmarks of the traditional Escalator approach to intimate relationships, as well. Because one-size-fits-all social norms rarely suit real human relationships.
Fortunately, there are many, many ways to have mutually consensual, happy and healthy loving relationships.
Here’s what happened: Ashley Madison is an online dating and social networking site for people seeking to engage in clandestine intimate connections — presumably in violation of the agreements of their ostensibly monogamous relationships. Cybercriminals calling themselves The Impact Team published a some user records online to prove that they had at least some of Ashley Madison’s data. They threatened to release more if the site’s owner, Avid Life Media, didn’t shut down Ashley Madison and a similar property, Established Men. (more…)