It's a time consuming arduous task, but I just finished signing up with Hong Kong's newest dating site. Strictly for research purposes, of course. It isn't just any dating site though, it's a site that promotes and facilitates adultery.
ADULTERY?! Yes, helping people cheat on their spouses. It may sound like an outrageous, community inflaming concept, but it's been going strong for over a decade and offers service in 30 countries.
Asia is the newest region where Ashley Madison is expanding. There's actually no real Ashley, it's just a contrived name. Founder Noel Biderman says "it's a reality of life, we are an unfaithful society," and far from trying to destroy marriages, he says he's just facilitating something that can, does and will happen.
"I can't convince anyone to have an affair. I can't convince people to step outside their relationship. What I can do is cannibalize an already existing behavior pattern. An affair at the workplace ends really badly, so we built a platform that says: are you looking for an affair? Great, everyone else here is looking for the same thing," he told CNBC on Tuesday.
If Japan is anything to go by, it could be a fast track success here in Hong Kong, Ashley Madison's second market in North Asia. Over a million people signed up within two months of their launch there. And even before the launch of their new Hong Kong site, Biderman says the U.S. website got over 320,000 hits from Hong Kong in the past year, even though it wouldn't match people up for affairs locally.
The company is using a unique approach, by targeting the female market. Biderman says the pattern of female infidelity gets its first major rise when women enter the workplace.
"They have economic independence, want to meet interesting people. (While) men have tons of outlets… (like) massage parlors, women didn't and this is the outlet to level the playing field," he said.
Biderman cites rising divorce as an indicator of massive demand for this product, saying that the Hong Kong government statistics show that 30 out of 100 married couples filed for divorce in 2011, twice the number in 1991.
Understandably, Ashley Madison is getting loads of flak from religious groups and community organizations. The Hong Kong Family Planning Association told AFP that "infidelity in any form may hurt marriage and undermine family integrity." Reverend Lawrence Lee, of the Catholic Diocese said "this is disrupting marriage and family, what good can it come to?"
It's now been about an hour since I signed up with Ashley Madison. I searched for 18-22 year old females in Hong Kong, but hmmm, not a single one has viewed my profile. Maybe I need to try a bit harder with my user profile, instead of just glancing across my desk and punching in "Betadine" (a mouthwash on my table) as my user name. My greeting is probably a bit cursory too: hey babies, are you ready for serious action?
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