Saturday 16 December 2017

Ashley Madison is more risky than any affair

The dating website is back to court Irish users, but if its 'starlet' was real she'd definitely be celibate, writes Donal Lynch

A study at the University of San Diego last year stated that
A study at the University of San Diego last year stated that "online dating apps should, in theory, help millennials find sexual partners more easily. However, technology may have the opposite effect if young people are spending so much time online that they interact less in person, and thus don’t have sex" (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

A starlet gone awry." That was how Ashley Madison CEO Rob Segal described the notorious 'affairs' website, which has relaunched amid a blaze of publicity. The millions of names - including those of 115,000 Irish users - which were leaked last year and the (hardly surprising) revelations that most of the 'women' on the site were in fact robots were both cleverly recast as the excesses of a sexy young woman. Speaking to the Irish Times last week Segal said: "We checked Ashley into rehab, we fixed her up and she's going to come back, if the market still wants to hear from her."

Well, of course it does. The market's appetite for online sexual titillation is fairly bottomless. Millions of users had their names leaked and their relationships destroyed by the leak of the Ashley data last year, and still millions have come back for more. The established dating sites have also gotten progressively more lurid - most of them now allow users to list fetishes. In this landscape there is certainly room for an even wilder Ashley - Segal lasts week said that the site is "for partners looking for other couples, partners looking for a single partner, soft kink, all kinds of experiences".

It all sounds so thrilling until you remember that if Ashley Madison really was who they want her to be - a troubled millennial - she would probably hardly be having any sex at all. We can put this down to the fact that Ashley is only human. The internet takes a natural, age-old desire - for sexual novelty - and overloads the brain with it. Dating and hook-up websites provide a seemingly endless horizon of sexual possibilities but they are all sizzle and no steak. They offer an ersatz substitute for real human flirtation. Despite the perception that sex is the wallpaper of modern society, and that this is the "hook-up generation", all research points to the fact that young people today are having less sex than at any point since the 1920s.

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