| February 2013
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By Heidi Anderson
With Valentine’s Day upon us, a dating website is offering up some statistics on a darker side of marriage. AshleyMadison.com is devoted to extramarital affairs, and last month the site sent the media some provocative data on infidelity in San Francisco. A quick scan of “The Top 10 Cheating Neighborhoods” reveals that Noe Valley is doing its best to keep up with the Mr. and Mrs. Robinsons of the city.
According to Ashley Madison’s founder, Noel Biderman, Pacific Heights leads the pack in cheating, followed by the Financial District and the Marina. Noe Valley comes in fourth, trailed by the Sunset. The Lower Haight clocks in at No. 10.
Biderman provides a few more stats for our no longer prim neighborhood. Men make up 64 percent, women 36 percent, of Noe Valley online Lotharios signing up for Ashley Madison.
He says the site determined that Noe was fourth in cheating by taking the number of those who register to find dates at Ashley Madison and dividing it by the number of adults living in the neighborhood.
“The faithful in Noe Valley are a minority,” claims Biderman.
AshleyMadison.com bills itself as designed for people who are already in a relationship who want to have an affair, or for those who are unmarried but looking for a no-strings-attached fling. The site’s user interface even comes with a “panic button” that users can hit if, well, ahem, someone walks too near the laptop.
It works much like other dating sites: members post profiles and photos of themselves and search for potential like-minded partners. Users are able to send and receive messages, “wink” at each other, and chat online. The site’s FAQs page lists standard precautions for meeting someone in person for the first time, such as not giving out home address or work phone.
Ashley Madison has been in business for 10 years, and Biderman maintains that 20,000 members sign up each day worldwide. “We are the third largest dating website in the world.”
An Efficient Way to Stray
Biderman was a sports attorney when he ran across an article about how the dot-com world had revolutionized many things—including dating. But what caught his eye was when the article’s author mentioned that dating websites were overrun with married men looking for extramarital relationships.
He says he was struck with the idea of creating a site that would remove the need to cloak the users’ intentions.
Now a decade later, Biderman is a veteran at answering the “How dare you?” question.
“Ask yourself: If I took this site down, would it stop infidelity?” he counters.
Biderman, who was quoted in a recent Atlantic magazine story titled “A Million First Dates: How Online Dating Is Threatening Monogamy,” says you can’t convince people to have an affair, they choose to stray regardless of how they find their partner. “And at the end of the day, the site encourages people to have safer extramarital relationships—not through escort services or even the workplace, which threatens employment.”
He adds a note of moral justification. “This site is, ironically, a place to cheat without lying about it.”
Wandering Eyes Wear Glasses
Biderman is happy to offer more details on Noe Valley hanky-panky. The typical married man in Noe Valley who is two-timing with the website works in the IT business.
And on average, in San Francisco his Noe Valley clients are the ones with the most children.
“Noe Valley has a lot of young families, and I have to say that the seven-year itch happens these days at about three or four years into a marriage.” He points out that this is typically when children arrive on the scene.
“Men join at that time because they are no longer the center of physical attention. The sex life changes, and he strays.”
Women in Noe Valley (and the rest of the city) wait a few more years into the marriage before signing up for forbidden love.
“Their affairs are usually for communication,” says Biderman. “It’s not a sexual void they’re filling, but an emotional one.”
He adds that, worldwide, hundreds of thousands join the site, send one email, and disappear. “They were just testing the waters.”
Biderman, a resident of Toronto, Canada, says he himself is happily married.
“Actually, we’ve been going strong for 10 years,” he says. “I must be doing something right.” Perhaps a strong dose of reality every day keeps things honest at home?
Biderman adds that on singles dating sites people use the service until they find a relationship, then end their membership.
“There is a very low rate of quitting my site.”
Any thoughts on his business and the month of February?
“Yes, we call Valentine’s Day ‘Mistress Day’ around here.”