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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Have a break, have an affair?

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Some people cringed when Star Cinema produced and bombarded the cinema with affair-themed movies such as “No Other Woman” and “The Mistress,” among others. But these movies are not a far cry from reality.

Not your ordinary dating site. Ashley Madison.com offers a
secure and discreet platform for those looking for affair partners.

Most people know of someone who has an unfaithful partner or who has been involved in an affair, one time or another. We hear stories from the grapevine about people having multiple partners and raising two (or perhaps more) families. While most Filipinos (about 96 percent) disapprove of extramarital relations, infidelity happens on a daily basis.

Based on a report from the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women in 2009, marital infidelity is one of the major causes of stress among Filipino couples, with about 36 percent of men and two percent of women engaging in extramarital affairs. This is quite evident in the rise in the number of marriage annulment cases in the Philippines. In the last decade, there has been a 40 percent increase, with at least 22 cases filed daily. Data from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), as reported by the CBCPNews, showed that the annulment cases had risen from 4,520 in 2001 to 8,282 in 2010.

But annulment requires time and money, not to mention one has to fight not only against the spouse but with the church and state prosecutor whose jobs are to uphold the sanctity of marriage. One has to prove that the marriage never happened which is udoubtedly challenging because one can't use infidelity, desertion, physical or psychological abuse and irreconcilable differences as valid reasons. With expensive legal process that is not within the reach of the lower-income sector, those who are unhappy don't have any other recourse but to be stuck in a difficult and dysfunctional marriage or live in sin.

Ashley Madison spokesman
Christoph Kraemer

An online dating site for married men and women, called AshleyMadison.com, is offering an alternative and unconventional approach to strengthening the marriage. Established in 2002 in Canada, the site is now currently in 43 countries, in 24 different languages and have over 30 million members around the world, with one person signing up every six seconds.

"Our Web site is an outlet, where married people can satisfy their needs without endangering the relationship. We simply offer a trusted anonymous way to find affair partners. We believe we are actually helping save marriages," said Christoph Kraemer, the site's spokesman.

The Web site started its Asian expansion last year, now operating in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and India, which they recently launched. Last year, the Web site came to the Philippines.

"Philippines is long overdue. We think Philippines will be one of our most successful international markets for several reasons. For one, we have studied its economic growth for the last 10 years. Two, it is the 12th most popular tourist destination in the world. Three, it is considered a conservative society with strong Catholic heritage," shared Kraemer.

The Philippines being a predominantly Catholic country, Kraemer believes, is not an hindrance, but rather an advantage to the site.

"Based on our experience, socially conservative countries tend to do very well. We are doing quite well in Catholic countries such as Spain, Brazil, Italy, among others. I think it goes back to the story of Adam and Eve and the apple. The more norms and rules exist, more people [are] tempted to taste the forbidden fruit."

He shared based on their recent survey on religion and infidelity, "Catholics are most adventurous in the bedroom. The reason they gave us? The next morning, they can always go to the confession and everything will be forgiven."

So far, there are about 2,500 to 3,000 Filipinos who sign up since AshleyMadison opened their Web site to the Philippines, and they are forecasting to have more signing up now that they have officially announced it.

Kraemer shared that the international demographics: "Ninety percent of the male members are married, aged between 42 to 45, and mostly entrepreneurs. They are mostly working in the finance, marketing and sales sectors. For female, two-thirds are married and aged 30 to 35. we have a large group of single women who I classify into three groups. The first group is the single mothers who have children. They don't want to introduce a father figure but want to seek male companionship from time to time. The second is composed of single career women whose focus are their work right now and don't want to be tied down in a relationship."

Although it is the smallest, Kramer finds the third group of single women quite fascinating. "I call them the vocational mistress. They don't want to be the girlfriend or wife because they don't want to wash the dirty laundry, do the dishes and go grocery shopping, They want to be taken to a nice restaurant or a luxurious escapade to Paris for Valentine's or Christmas. Men tend to spend three times as much on their mistress than their wives. These single women are quite fulfilled, happy and content being the proverbial other woman."

With its tagline "Life is short. Have an Affair," it is likely that the site will stir controversy and dispute. "We have received it, but we extend invitation for discussion and collaboration. Instead of being antagonistic with church, we want to collaborate with them. Our service is no more responsible for an affair than the hotel where the two lovers met, or the phone where they exchanged secret love notes."

So, how does the site go?

"It is like any other normal social sites. You have to sign up. All you need is an email address. But we strongly suggest not to use your office and private emails. There are many providers out there. Create a special email account just for your AshleyMadison account, with password that is totally different from your other passwords. Then, fill in basic stats about your appearance and you can start looking at profiles of potential partners. You can do so according to either geographic location, preferences or interests," said Kraemer.

Signing up and looking at profiles are free. You can send wink as a sign of admiration. Women can use options and features for free; men have to pay if they want to contact another member but they only have to pay first initial contact. The subsequent contact is free. Men also have to pay to use the chat features.

"We ask male members to pay so that we can protect our female members. On most free dating sites, females are bombarded with not-so-pleasant messages. We want to prevent that from happening on our Web site. Women seek affairs because they feel neglected and are no longer desired by their partners. They sign up on the site because they want to feel loved and be courted by the male members. We make sure that it is done in an educated manner. If they are willing to pay just to send a message, then they must be really serious and interested with the female members," said the site's spokesperson.

So, what happens when the other spouse learns about the affair?

"We have been operating for more than 12 years now, and our success has always been anchored on anonymity and account security," says Kraemer who admits that he has an account with AshleyMadison to make sure the site is really working.

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