Featured March 2012 in The Times
Browsing for a bit on the side: how British wives drive demand for ‘dating’ websites
More than a million British adults have subscribed to extramarital dating websites, with up to 400,000 unique users logging on every week seeking to have an affair.
The sites, which are aimed at people who want to set up adulterous liaisons, have experienced a steep rise in demand, driven by married women. Some claim to have more women regularly using their websites than men, while most reported large numbers of women signing up the day after Valentine’s Day.
Members are instantly linked to the profiles of other would-be adulterers in their area, most using pseudonyms and risque photographs, and usually pay to make contact through private messages or webchat. Although the users are overwhelmingly marries and middle-aged, most sites also allow singles to subscribe.
One of the largest of these websites MaritalAffair.co.uk, has almost 600,000 members. Analysis of the site shows that the majority of its users are parents aged 35 to 54, universitry educated – and browsing from their homes. A spokesman for Marital Affair Ltd said that women using the site on a weekly basis outnumbered men by three to one.
Ashley Madison, a US-based site specialising in “discreet affairs”, picks up a new British member ever 45 seconds, making the country proportionately its fastest-growing market in the world. More than 150,000 Britons use the site each week. The company’s chief executive, Noel Biderman said that Britain was unique in its number of women trapped in “sexless” marriages who jumped at the chance of infidelity. “The number of 50-plus” married women women in the UK joining us has surprised me.” he said “The foundation of our business in Britain is the married woman.”
Research by the company suggests that British married women of all ages are setting up affairs online because there are so few extramarital outlet for their desires. “I have been to London and a few other British cities where there are massage parlours and clubs with a wink towards gentlemen, but almost nothing for women,” Mr Biderman said. “There’s been a massive jump in the number of women entering the workplace in recent years. The more successful a woman is in her career, the more likely she is to have an affair. But women can’t easily have an affair in the workplace, where they might risk their jobs. So they need somewhere to go.”
Ashley Madison acquired more than 10,000 users the day after Valentine’s Day, most of them married women. There was similar increases after New Year’s Day and Mother’s Day last year. “Women are disappointed by their spouses’ lack of effort and they feel especially undervalued when there is a societal expectation of romance,” Mr Biderman said.
A survey by the site found the capital of online adultery in Britain is Manchester, where there is one subscriber for every 27 people.
Julian Brazier, the MP for Canterbury and a vocal patron of the the Conservative Christian Fellowship, said that extramarital dating sites were pushing Britain towards a “social breakdown”. He said “How can a marriage work when one partner starts to routinely lie to the other?”
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