For the Love of Money: Why Noel Biderman Banks on Infidelity

Stephanie Stark


Ask one person, and Noel Biderman is an intellectual who curates a conversation about the contemptuous state of relationships in our ever-connected society.


Ask another person, and Noel Biderman is responsible for the destruction of the sacred bond of love.


Biderman is the founder and spokesperson for Ashley Madison, a website built to facilitate marital affairs, which is banned in South Korea and Singapore. A Toronto native with a degree in economics and a background as a sports attorney in the United States, Biderman comes off as extremely typical. He has a wife and two kids, and maintains that he is in a monogamous relationship-- and adds that there hasn’t been one interview where he has not had to answer that question. A puff of nearly nonexistent hair sits shrinking on top of his head, a separate entity from the shelf of hair that lines the back of his skull. He speaks fast, using a range of rationales to justify his controversial business venture. His face becomes a blank stare when challenged on his morals on national news. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he’s worth $100 million.



In the marriage crisis, Biderman is playing the devil’s advocate. Marriage is getting much more difficult, and infidelity is prominent. In recent decades, Americans have become increasingly less likely to get married and more likely to get divorced. It is estimated that 30 to 60 percent of all married people cheat at one point in their marriage, although no exact statistics have been calculated because of its secretive nature. Dr. Jean Fitzpatrick, a marriage counselor in New York, says most couples come to her to repair their marriages after infidelity.



Biderman purports that infidelity happens all over the world, and gives a slew of reasons to legitimize his morals in connection with his business venture. At times in our conversation, he speaks in impassioned defense of his site as merely the messenger in the marital crisis. At other times, he defends infidelity as a potential solution to a failing marriage, and has written multiple books to argue his point. He says there are no known consequences of infidelity to the family unit, and that if he were thinking of leaving his wife, he would have an affair before making the decision to divorce.



Debra Macleod, a relationship consultant in the U.S. and Canada, says “that’s a great spin to put on it, but it’s BS.” She says that asserting that cheating will help a marriage is like saying obesity is good for your health.” This is the kind of justification that people start using when they want to do or defend an action they know is wrong.”



Other times, Biderman describes infidelity as a symbol of women’s empowerment, noting that the site is named after popular female names and features a woman on its homepage.



“Do you want to think the country should act more like Iran, where women can’t explore this kind of conversation and should be put in jail or to death for it, or do you want to be more American in your thinking?” he proposes. 


Still, other times, he uses his site as an example of his Libertarian and American individualist mindset. 


“You might smoke cigarettes,” he says. “You might drive a motorcycle, you might like sky diving. None of those things are necessarily in your best interest from a health perspective.” He says he has no business telling someone what they should or should not do. “That’s not the core of who I am. I think my business operates well within that and also as an advocate.”


And other times, he says we are not genetically wired for monogamy and that the unfaithful need an advocate. He says that someone has to speak up on behalf of the millions who use his service or who are unfaithful in general.


“They’re cast in a certain light no matter what,” Biderman says. “These [people] can be one day the most talked about and celebrated entertainers, or favorite athletes, or a politician trusted in guiding us and two minutes later, they’re the devil, and that can’t possibly be in my mind. So somebody has to speak up on their behalf.”



But, he adds, it’s not that he wants people to cheat. He says he thinks most people struggle with being monogamous. He came up with the idea for AshleyMadison while he was on a business trip as a sports attorney for Interperformances, Inc. early in his career. He was on a flight to a client and read an article claiming 31 percent of people on single dating sites were not truly single and was fascinated by the idea.



“I also had to some degree exposure to professional infidelity,” he says. “Half of these people are unfaithful. I saw that, and experienced that firsthand and had to deal with that from a professional perspective.”


A Jewish Libertarian economist with a typically masculine gravitation to the sports industry, Biderman is a natural representative of so many likeminded people. Though the site is named after a woman and features a woman on its homepage, women are half as likely to cheat than men. And, according to Marina Adshade, author of Dollars and Sex and professor at the Vancouver School of Economics, most people who cheat are opportunistic cheaters rather than people who actively seek out extramarital affairs.


“So for example,” she says, “someone who's traveling on business might end up having a sexual encounter while away, while that same person would not have sought one on an organized market.”


Macleod says while services like AshleyMadison try to promote cheating, people of character “will always have character and won’t buy into what AshleyMadison is selling.”


She says she thinks it’s more accurate to say that AshleyMadison facilitates cheating for people who are already of that mindset. 



“If I shut down AshleyMadison tomorrow,” Biderman says, “do you intellectually, genuinely believe a single affair will not take place?... You’re shooting the messenger. This is a societal lie.”


Author Bio:

Stephanie Stark, a Highbrow Magazine contributor, is a freelance writer and web producer based in New York City. Her work focuses on social, religious and gender issues in the U.S. Follow her on Twitter: @stephanie_stark.

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