August 26, 2105
All right, I’m fessin’ up. I signed up for Ashley Madison, and my email is probably on that list.
Now that you’ve climbed back into your chair, I’ll tell you I signed up with full knowledge of my husband, and I did so to research the site for a friend. No, really, I did it for my friend. I never went past the free trial and never provided a credit card, and I closed my account after a single day and several emails from some desperate dudes.
The desperation made me sad, that these folks would reach out to a faceless stranger (I didn’t post a picture). The messages also skeeved me out, but they didn’t anger me. Who am I to judge these guys? As Glenn Greenwald has written, how can we judge people whose private lives and motivations are as varied and complex as humanity itself? Yes, the Josh Duggers, who pontificate about the sanctity of marriage while cheating themselves, are hypocrites, but let’s condemn the hypocrisy, not the outside-of-marriage sex between consenting adults. Adultery may be a sin in your religion, it may be grounds for divorce, and it is an inarguably good reason to be seriously pissed at your spouse, but it is not illegal.
I can hear the “But but but” chorus sounding off from every room where eyeballs are reading this. The bottom line is, people are often shitty to one another, but it’s too easy to sit outside the glass house and say “he’s a horrible person” or “she deserves what she gets.” Of the millions of people whose email addresses were released last week, how can we assume all of them are bad guys/gals? Glenn Greenwald printed an email from a woman who chose to have an affair rather than divorce her cancer patient husband. We glimpse this woman’s pain in her letter to Greenwald, but we cannot see the decision tree that led to her Ashley Madison account. We cannot know, so we should not judge.
Customs glue societies together, and for millennia the Western societal ideal has been monogamous marriage between a man and a woman. That’s the ideal, but affairs have been commonplace just as long. Le Morte D’Arthur is as much about adultery as chivalry. There’s hardly an Ancient Greek play or poem that isn’t spiced up by an extramarital affair. I’m not condoning cheating, but I am decrying the condemnation of others’ choices when it’s none of our damn business.
Oh, and by the way, hacking into a private site and exposing private information of individual citizens because your extortion demands weren’t met—that is illegal and should be prosecuted. Or so I judge.
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