Originally posted at The Well Versed
There are a host of books, TV shows and Web sites dedicated to keeping couples faithful to each other. Noel Biderman believes its all rubbish. Backed by the short and sweet slogan, “Life is short, have an affair,” Biderman is the brain behind AshleyMadison.com, the online community dedicated to men and women who want to step out on their mates. In what is probably the fairest interview Biderman has received in some time, the man dubbed “The King of Infidelity” chats with TWV about keeping a marriage together, his treatment by the media and talking to his wife about AshleyMadison. Yes, you read that write, he’s married.
The Well Versed: Prior to the founding of AshleyMadison, who was Noel Biderman?
Noel Biderman: Before I was dubbed “The King of Infidelity,” I was a sports agent. I was the Jerry Maguireof Lebanon. I took ex-NBA players and brought them to secondary careers overseas.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw my athletes stepping out to the point where I’d get a phone call that says, “Hey I’ve got a huge problem Noel, my wife is coming to Italy and I don’t know how to tell her about my Italian wife?” Your Italian wife? You can’t just get married to somebody else because you’re in another country.
TWV: Was that the light bulb for the site?
NB: The light bulb was a research report that I read that said 30% of people on dating Websites weren’t single at all.
TWV: You’re married as well right?
TWV: When you ran this by your wife, what was that conversation like?
NB: What do you think she said? “You have to be nuts!” My parents said the same. The more I explained it to them, to my friends, the more they said, “That’s brilliant, and that might work.” I didn’t create infidelity. I just have to tell people, don’t do it in the work place, don’t go to a Website and pretend to be something you’re not.
TWV: Was there a moment when everyone started to come around?
NB: When I told people, “I have to do an interview on ’60 Minutes’.” Then people asked, “Are you still comfortable with that?” When you broadcast yourself to the world, you put a huge target on your back.
TWV: Were you prepared for that?
NB: You can’t prepare yourself for that. Hate mail of that magnitude. It was venomous; I don’t care who you are, if you walk into a buzz saw, you walk into a buzz saw. The Bill Gates’ of the world had to face criticism.Hugh Hefner faced blowback. It is what it is. I think at the end of the day, am I getting any humanitarian awards? No. But history will judge me very differently, I’m confident of that.
TWV: Do you feel that you’ve gotten a fair break from most of the media outlets?
NB: Not even close. I’ve been the “Most Hated Man In America,” “The King Of Infidelity,” these are names they’ve given me; I didn’t give them to myself.
I look around and say, you’re crucifying the messenger. I didn’t create infidelity; I may be trying to help people perfect their approach, but that’s a ridiculous amount of credit you’re giving me.
If you think America is made up of June and Ward Cleaver with two kids—life just doesn’t work that way. There are children born to single moms, the institution of marriage has same sex couples in it. Everyone has to grow up and realize the [Cleaver’s] isn’t the world we have.
TWV: I’ve watched a lot of your interviews and everybody seems to ask the same questions, what’s the one thing you wish people would ask that they don’t?
NB: That’s a good question. Everybody wants to ask why, but nobody wants to ask what obstacles the business is facing. MSN won’t let me buy the word “infidelity.” Think of it from this perspective. You might type infidelity into Bing—you might want to know how to avoid it, how to recover from it or how to pursue it. If they don’t return results for the last one, they’re redefining a word. That’s a slippery slope.
I would like more of the media to stop looking at why I’m wrong and start looking at why it’s problematic the way they’re approaching it. They should be wary that a company as powerful as MSN is limiting free speech.
TWV: What was that conversation like with MSN?
NB: I advertised there for years, spent millions of dollars and they pulled the rug out from under me. They said we don’t’ want to condone cheating in any shape or form. Did you shut off the ads for singles sites? I bet there’s cheating going on there.
TWV: Why do you think people struggle with monogamy?
NB: It’s not in our DNA; it’s not the way we’re engineered. As a society, we can say this is a construct we want to step into, but we’re also being naïve. If we look back over history, we weren’t always marrying for love. At one point there were arrangements, or polygamy was the standard. Now we’re marrying for love and what we find is that more than half of those fail. I’d rather look at the causes of why they fail instead of believing this was handed down on a stone tablet.
TWV: What advice would you give to those shooting for monogamy?
NB: I am too. I’m in a monogamous marriage. Happy marriages are awesome. There’s a hell of a lot of people from athletes, to celebrities to your friends—maybe we should start judging them less or saying someone is a bad person when they cheat. Maybe if we stop judging so much, we might be a better society.
TWV: As a monogamous man yourself, what’s the secret?
NB: Communication man. Be as honest as you can. If you’re digging somebody and want to do something, tell your partner about it. If you can’t make your way forward, what do you do next? I for one would be advocating looking for something on the side before divorcing.
TWV: I poked around on the site and noticed a lot of single people in my area, is that something you’re finding a lot of?
NB: Yes. Some guys will want a relationship with a mistress; some women will want a relationship with a single man. Most people are very interested in that mutually assured destruction with a married person that has just as much to lose. However, 20 percent of our female population is single that don’t have a sense of sisterhood. If you have a man that you’re not taking care of, they’ll be more than happy to step up.
TWV: Despite the negative attention, do you feel that you’ve moved the conversation forward?
NB: Yes. Even when I was in front of a mega church, I feel like we come across as thoughtful. I think I’m fighting for an important ideology, and that’s what makes America great.