Yes, you read that right. Ashley Madison claims it can “actually save marriages”. Christoph Kraemer, Ashley Madison European communications director and spokesperson, told ABS-CBN that they actually “help save a marriage” rather than endangering it.
Ashley Madison, for those who don’t know, is a dating site that caters to married, as well as single, men and women. It claims to have 30 million anonymous users and is available in more than 40 countries, including the Philippines where it just recently launched. Between 2,500 and 3,000 Filipinos have reportedly already signed up.
Regarding its saving marriages assertion, here’s how the site claims to do it:
Ashley Madison’s site is a platform married individuals can use to have “discreet encounters” with other like-minded people. A wife whose husband doesn’t give her the attention she craves for or a husband who gets a kick from trying new things are two examples of people that the site caters to. In other words, the site exists to serve as an outlet for unhappy people who are already in a committed relationship.
Kraemer claims users are happy because their needs are fulfilled by an affair, and this happiness just overflows. Kraemer points out that after having an affair, some of Ashley Madison’s clients reignited the spark and passion in their relationship with their spouses.
And because of this belief, Kraemer asserts Ashley Madison and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) “share a common goal and … should be working together”. In fact, Kraemer told Manila Bulletin that the church “should thank them for saving the sanctity of marriage”.
Sells Cheating for Profit
Despite the separation of the Church and the State, both agree that Ashley Madison is not good for the Filipino people. The site has been called illegal and accused of selling cheating for profit.
The Catholic Church disagrees with the site’s claim of helping to save marriages. Fr. Melvin Castro, CBCP’s executive director of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, believes what Ashley Madison is actually doing is “exploit those who are already in troubled marriages for profit”.
Ashley Madison also received flak from prominent feminists. Ana P. Santos of Sex and Sensibilities believes that the site is not empowering at all, especially since the Philippines’ “archaic laws have not leveled the playing field.” Adultery is considered a crime in the country; however, a married woman can get jailed for it, while an offending husband penalized for concubinage only. Another women’s rights activist, Liza Maza, echoes the CBCP’s allegations by saying it is an “outright commercialization of cheating” and believes it will only worsen the problem of extra-marital affairs in the country.
Adultery-Promoting Site is Illegal
Ashley Madison has been banned in neighbouring Asian countries of Singapore and South Korea. The Philippine government is pushing to do the same. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who believes the site is “a platform that allows illegal acts to be eventually committed”, stated the cybercrime division of the department is already looking into it.
A Happy Marriage is Key
Despite these allegations, Ashley Madison claims that it is not encouraging married people to commit adultery, despite its slogan being “Life is short. Have an affair.”
Although this “have an affair” = “not encouraging adultery” confuses me, one thing is clear. Ashley Madison’s foothold in the country will only be a reflection of how strong Filipinos’ belief in the sanctity of marriage is and how easily we can get swayed by lust.
To quote Kraemer: “No amount of advertising can convince anyone to stray if they’re happy in their relationship”.
And he is right. Marriage is a choice a man and a woman commit to go into for the long haul. Both parties need to do their share to keep the flame burning. Happiness in marriage is a choice couples make and pursue together.