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Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat
The Canadian man dubbed “The King of Infidelity” is not worried that a Joburg billboard advertising his website that offers a dating service for married people who want to have affairs has been removed.
The provocative advert for AshleyMadison.com, featuring the website’s tagline, “Life is too short, have an affair”, was removed from the billboard in Sandton this week following numerous complaints.
Noel Biderman, the founder of the website hoped it was a “once-off situation”.
“We thought that we wouldn’t come across these types of obstacles… I truly felt that when we campaigned in South Africa that its society was moving forward. After all, its president is not monogamous.”
The now infamous advert depicted a sensuous yet classy-looking Amanda Biderman, Noel’s Cape Town-born wife, lounging on a leather couch, with the pay-off line: “Your wife is hot… but so are ours!”
Biderman said he would use additional campaigns to advertise his website. He has already pumped R5 million into advertising.
Biderman, who was recently in the country, accompanied by Amanda, hoped that South Africans would come to accept the site.
“It’s perfectly legal. We’ll go about our business and let people live their own lives,” he said.
That thousands have signed up onto AshleyMadison.com here revealed there’s “an appetite” for it, he added.
Within four days of the site’s launch, 14 000 had signed up. It has been the fastest sign-up rate ever experienced in any of the 23 countries where the website is available.
He also believes that “South Africans are twice as likely to use an infidelity dating website as their American counterparts”, with the local membership breakdown, to date, as 48 percent women and 52 percent men.
In Cape Town alone, in one day, there were 10 000 log-ins. And within a month, it’s expected that there will be 80 000 members.
“It is in our human condition that we are an unfaithful species,” said Biderman.
The website has raised the ire of experts.
“Making the site South African-specific enhances opportunities for cheating because it makes meeting (potential partners) in real life so much more possible,” said Clinical Sexologist Marlene Wasserman, aka Dr Eve.
“The risk of HIV and Aids and sexually transmitted infections must be considered when setting up such a site. Health-care providers and activists in this country work really hard at teaching and preaching safer sex – this site is the antithesis of this,” she said.
People are already struggling to stay monogamous because it’s hard to sustain and there are temptations, said Wasserman.
“People are doing it, why set something up that makes cheating acceptable and accessible? Why endorse behaviour that brings harm and trauma to people and their families?
“The internet has brought enormous changes in people’s relationships and sexuality, some good and healthy some unhealthy. I categorise the site as unhealthy and lacking ethical integrity.
“Its capitalising on other people’s pain. I think that’s unethical,” said Wasserman.
Clinical Psychologist Rafiq Lockhat agreed. He said the website was an opportunistic means of making money.
“Their (the Bidermans) argument is that they’re not encouraging affairs – people are having affairs anyway – and they’re providing an outlet and there’s a market for it. So why not make money anyway. But now it all comes down to the ethics of business. And that is a murky area,” he said.
However, American Beth*, a mother of two and a member of AshleyMadison.com said the site had helped her keep her marriage intact. She joined up two years ago and has had two “boyfriends”. Beth has been seeing her current lover, who is married with children, for the past nine months.
“I get fulfilled elsewhere now. My husband is just happy that what we were going through has passed. And it makes a difference for my kids to see a mother that is happy,” she said.
*Not her real name