Upon waking to the news that the Ashley Madison hackers had made good on their threat to release their stash of stolen personal information, my reaction was pretty much:


For those of us who had our lives ripped apart by affairs, it’s hard to not smile at the sight of Team Sidepiece  getting some much-needed comeuppance. It’s hard not to chuckle at the spectacle of people who were lying to and betraying others being lied to and betrayed by Ashley Madison. While the victims of the Target and OPM hacks had done nothing wrong, these “victims” (sure, let’s call them that) could have used another run through Aesop’s fable about the farmer and the viper: “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”


You knew that Ashley Madison was a company lacking in strong moral scruples when you signed up, so what were you thinking?

There will be innocent victims and collateral damage, to be sure, but let’s be real here. Most of these “victims” were not-so-innocent. Most of them were married people who were looking to screw strange behind their unsuspecting spouse’s back. Most of them were actively engaged in spousal abuse when they signed up (more on that in a moment).

This was probably just a relationships reporter checking out the site.
This was probably just a relationships reporter checking out the site.

As a society, our values on a lot of social issues have changed wildly in the past few decades. Interestingly enough, adultery hasn’t been one of them:

Adultery gained a whole 1% in 14 years. Source: Gallup
Adultery gained a whole 1% in 14 years. Source: Gallup

We still dislike adultery enough that most of us will say, at least superficially, that we are against it.

In spite of this, it hasn’t taken long for a cry to go out on behalf of the “victims” here, for the beginnings of pontificating on what this hack means and the looming end of privacy as we know it. Along with it has come a slew of slipshod apologetics on behalf of Team Adultery:

  • “This hack could be ruinous—personally, professionally, financially—for them and their families.” (Because cheating isn’t personally, professionally, or financially ruinous for the betrayed spouses?)
  • “What the howling wolves doesn’t seem to understand is what they are doing is online bullying. The kind of bullying that clearly can cause such personal tragedies. . .” (Because affairs can’t cause personal tragedies? Hey, you know who often engage in bullying? Cheaters and their affair partners.)
  • “And what would a flood of divorces mean for marriage, an institution already on the wane in America?” (Because exposing adultery is more threatening to the institution of marriage than actually having affairs?)
  • “A marriage is more likely to survive infidelity if the other partner doesn’t know.” (Which is why infidelity is the problem, not exposing it.)
  • “Who are you to impose your sexual morality on others?” (Who are you to make unilateral decisions about your partner’s reproductive health??)

Valid points are being made. Yes, online bullying is wrong. No, engaging in reprehensible moral behavior does not automatically void one’s right to privacy. Yes, hacking is illegal and adultery isn’t (well, actually, adultery is still on the books as illegal in 21 states, but I’ll give you that it shouldn’t be).

But to the people who are brushing off the victims of adultery with “not everyone accepts your archaic morals”—let me talk to you for a minute.

Another totally single person.
Another totally single person looking for love on Ashley Madison.

Your dismissive attitude is disturbing because infidelity is abuse. It just is. Infidelity always means lying to one’s partner about the status of the marriage. It means changing the sexual nature of the union without the consent of every member of that union. Rape is sex without consent; infidelity is sex without the consent of all parties involved. They are both horrific acts of aggression and abuse. Not only that, but adulterers frequently gaslight, manipulate, and coerce their partners in order to maintain the affair. The victims of infidelity often suffer emotional, social, and financial consequences that are absolutely devastating.

How is that not abuse?

Yet here you are clutching your pearls and wringing your hands over how the tables have turned and the predators are now the prey. You cry crocodile tears because these cheaters may now become subject to emotional, social, and financial consequences that could be absolutely devastating. Where was that concern for their victims all the while Ashley Madison was operating unscathed?

Nothing shady going on here...
Nothing shady going on here.

This isn’t an either-or situation. You can think that adultery is wicked and wrong and still think this hack was just as wicked and wrong. So how about you do that?

But those of you who insist on being dismissive of the spousal abuse that is infidelity can bite me.

And you Ashley Madison cheaters who were just hoisted on your abusive petards by the Internet: stand by while I play you the world’s tiniest violin. While being a spousal abuser doesn’t mean that you lose your right to privacy, it certainly does mean that you lose your right to me caring.

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