Ashley Madison fallout: a wave of open marriage seekers coming our way? And, Dan Savage nails it.
I suspect that the Ashley Madison hack may send a surge of desperate open-marriage newbies to poly websites, local groups and poly conventions.
Consider the numbers. The site's roughly 31 million actual customers (nearly all of them men) have been outed forever to anyone with a laptop or smartphone: name, address, pix, lists of preferred sex acts, and more. To put that number in context, there are only 68.6 million American men married or living with a domestic partner as of 2013 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Granted, the Ashley Madison customers are spread around the world, and an unknown number may be single. But nearly half of the 37 million total accounts (real and fake) are reported to be in the U.S., and the site was pitched not to singles but to bored members of couples with a promise of secrecy justifying the high price.
So roughly one in five married or domestically-partnered American men has an Ashley Madison cheating account.
That matches reports that 5.1% of the total American population (320 million men, women and children) were on Ashley Madison: 16.3 million accounts, though perhaps an eighth of them (2 million) were fake female accounts. Again, that comes out to about one in five partnered American men.
So a lot of divorce-quality discussions are probably happening, or about to happen, within shouting distance of wherever you live.
Suppose just one in a hundred of those couples decides that the solution is to try an open marriage, or this lovey-sounding polyamory thing they saw once on TV. If they come looking for help (or partners), we'll have 300,000 new problem cases on our hands. Or 600,000 if both members of the couple show up.
I'm guessing that most of these new open-marriage experimenters won't realize they need the support and wisdom of a community (they do). Or, they'll be ashamed to seek us out. Even so, the next year or two could be interesting for your local discussion group.
The hack is so big that it has prompted media ruminations about the future of marriage. The gist of the thought-pieces I've seen is that explicitly open relationships will become more common in the wake of the hack, and that genuinely monogamous people need to make a deliberate effort to seek each other out.
Which is what the poly movement has been saying for years: we're about relationship choice. Understand what kind of relationship or marriage you actually want, and date people who are compatible with that.
Don't assume, discuss.
If I'm going to recommend just one article on the whole business, it's Dan Savage's piece that went up yesterday evening:
Savage Love Letters of the Day: End of Week Ashley Madison Letter Dump
If I personally knew someone who was reeling from the AM hack — someone whose info was out there, someone whose in-laws were freaking, someone whose boss had been emailed a link to his or her data — I would sit them down and make them watch "How to Survive a Plague," David France's Oscar-nominated documentary about ACT UP and TAG, and then make them read "So You've Been Publicly Shamed," Jon Ronson's book about public shaming in the age the Twitter mob. (AM members: Please pay close attention to the chapter on Max Mosley.)
...Not everyone who was on AM cheated [the vast majority never had a chance –Ed.] ...and some people who cheated had grounds to cheat. And the only people who have the power to rewrite or complicate the narrative around who AM members are? AM members themselves. Which is why you motherfuckers need to stop sitting at home pissing your pants and start fighting back.
Go read the whole thing, and pass it on. (August 28, 2015).