“When it comes to monogamy we paint it as a fairy tale, but the truth is we’re not a very monogamous society,” said sports attorney Noel Biderman in a phone interview last week. As the founder and CEO of AshleyMadison.com, Biderman is quite literally banking on infidelity. Founded in 2002, the site is designed to facilitate affairs between married people intent on straying from their spouses.
Are you appalled? Maybe, but not everyone is. According to details recently posted on the site, the top two locations for cheating spouses in New Jersey are Bayonne and North Bergen.
The site produced the list simply from numbers of users in each town (not percentage).
“It seems like there are quite a few looking in New Jersey,” said a person named Ashley, who answered the phone at the contact number listed on the site.
Ashley or not
“I am an Ashley but not the Ashley,” she continued. “There is no real Ashley Madison. But I conveniently have the name.”
In truth, the site is named for the two most popular girls’ names when it was established. Biderman had an epiphany in 2001 that dating sites were full of cheats. He figured it was time for people to be honest – well, honest about cheating.
On Feb. 13, 2002, one day before Valentine’s Day, the site went live.
According to statistics posted on the site, in 2004, nearly two-thirds of the site users in New Jersey were female. Ten years later, the ratio is close to even, with 55 percent male and 45 percent female.
“We see this catch-up in particular in urban centers,” said Biderman, who pointed out where affairs often began in the past: “It’s the workplace. But unlike men, women have rejected that venue. They favor something more discreet.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that prices are skewed based on gender. Women can communicate for free; men can’t.
So why Bayonne and North Bergen?
“The reason why Bayonne and North Bergen may have so many members is that these are people who have to commute to work, and work long hours, meaning that they’re away from their families a lot of the time,” said Ashley. “A husband or wife ends up feeling neglected by their workaholic spouse and decides to find someone else who can meet their needs.”
Residents of North Bergen had a different answer to the question.
“Times change, you know,” said Carmen Rivera, who nonetheless thought her town was getting a bad rap. “North Bergen, I don’t think so. Not in North Bergen. It’s a good life in North Bergen. Maybe West New York, Union City, you know?”
“I would say Atlantic City, because that’s what you go down there for: ‘hanky panky,’ right?” said a resident calling himself Tony Nico. “I’m old fashioned. You should stay single like me if you want to fool around.”
“Oh, I heard of that site,” said a North Bergen resident who preferred to be known simply as Jerry. “For cheaters. Yeah, baby. I didn’t see the survey. I know the service, though. Really, I have no problem with that. Everybody should live their life; you know what I mean? I can’t pass judgment on anybody.”
And what does he think about North Bergen’s ranking as number two on the site? “I’m glad. I’m happy for us.”
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said a woman who preferred to remain anonymous. “I think marriage is a commitment and you have to follow through with it. I’m not from here; I work here and I think it’s appalling. I don’t agree with that.”
In Bayonne, ranked by AshleyMadison as the “top cheating city” in New Jersey, the average age of a male user is 39, while the average female user is 37 years old.
In North Bergen, the average age for a male user is 36 and the average age for a female is 34.
“When the recession happened, divorce rates plummeted,” Biderman said. “People called me to ask why. The reason is that people can’t get divorced. They can’t afford to sell their homes, to pay alimony, to find their way forward.”
None of which impacts AshleyMadison, according to Biderman.
“We’re in a recession-proof business,” he claimed.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.