OpEd: Ashley Madison Hack


PenSome people still seem a bit confused about the Ashley Madison hack, what it means, and what the site was for.  I’m going to present my views…

The website Ashley Madison borrowed from popular female names on the web (“Ashley” and “Madison”) with intent to provide a “singles” like dating website for those wishing to carry on surreptitious sexual liaisons outside of their marriage or long-term relationships.

Without making moral judgements, we should consider the potential benefit of the site,  it could have offloaded folks from genuine singles & dating oriented sites. Ideally this could translate into less deceit and hurt feelings about hidden agendas or dishonest intent, reducing the distraction or risk to folks who are legitimately looking for potential partners.  In other words, let people who are looking to cheat on their partners have a place to go for their purposes, and minimize their misleading representation on dating sites and drawing others into their drama.  Let folks who are dating have their venue, and let those who are looking for flings, hookups, or cheating have theirs.   To each their own…

It should be noted, for some have made this error, that the website had nothing to do with Swinging (where individuals or couples in relationships have sex with other partners with full knowledge and consent), or Polyamory (where individuals or couples in relationships maintain several loving relationships beside that of their primary partner and with full knowledge and consent).  It was about cheaters looking to hook up.

There are many reasons why this need so so prevalent, some are actually understandable and others perhaps reprehensible.  But I’m not going to take a stance or judge issues of morality or personal choice – such issues are far too individual (or least across multiple categories of commonality) to make a simple sweeping statement.

Activism vs Vigilantism

What the hackers have done is making a sweeping judgment and indicted the parent company and all participants as Guilty, acting more through vigilante justice than watchdog or protestor.  The hack has served to bring the awareness of website into mainstream reality, which was actually secondary to point of the hack itself.  The primary purpose, indicated by statements and the manner in which it was conducted, was to punish those deemed “immoral” and drag it into the light of day.  We are only just now beginning to see some fallout as identities are divulged and names revealed.

In the broader picture, the hack of Ashley Madison has raised dialog about the nature of modern relationships, digital privacy and security, and the degree of actions of self-righteous.  No matter where you may stand on, how one defines  such things, or whether or not you agree with the means or ends, one thing is abundantly clear;  Many people’s lives will be irrevocably changed one way or another – including yours.

Privacy & Security

Let’s start with the most basic – digital privacy.   We have seen through the explosion of hacks and leaks how insecure our information really is.  Federal tax records (IRS) and employment records (Office of Personnel Management), corporately held consumer credit card & financial records (JP Morgan Chase, Home Depot, Sony), critical mobile personal identity information (Apple iCloud) – these and many more add up to a clear picture.  Your Information is not Safe.  End of Story.  Done.

Here’s a wonderful infographic on the world’s biggest data breaches and hacks…

NO assurance of security is 100% fool-proof, for there is always a bigger and better fool willing to trust the wrong person or resource, or careless enough in the governance of IT systems, software, and information security implementation methods to allow a slip in the cracks.  This is why I often advise folks to go by Regret Management.  This philosophy starts with the assumption that it’s not a matter of if, rather it’s a matter of when, to what degree, and how much pain it will cause.   If it’s having your identity leaked is of Primary importance, then don’t put it where it WILL eventually come out.

Example – if you liquidated your entire life savings and all possessions into cash, and left that money in a bulging duffel bag in the passenger front seat of your car while you went into a seedy roadside diner, how much would you regret that decision when you come back to your car and find the money gone??   See – its crazy right??   Of course you wouldn’t do that – it’s too risky, there’s way too much regret possible.  This leads me to one point of advice…

If you feel you will really regret a decision if something goes wrong – make a different choice.



Next, let’s take on the degree of actions by the self-righteous.  There are certain ideas and buzzwords which have become fashionable. This is always the case, and though the words may change, the ideas usually don’t vary too widely.  I speak of course about extremism.  It seems to live and breathe in the narcissistic pandemic of our society and our times, and it’s fueled by frustration, rage, judgmentalism and intolerance.

We like to think we once possessed a more balanced view of the world – but that’s an illusion, a lie we tell ourselves because we find it nigh unfathomable to accept the level of distortion.  Truth be told, it’s that those on the receiving end had even less power to take action – peace was kept through absolute repression of the voice.. And that voice has taken up a new passion in defending its beliefs.   This, however, does not justify the inhuman or unjust actions it chooses to take.

In the case of the Ashley Madison hack, it is not for monetary reasons but rather purely one of ideals and philosophy.  The hackers saw the website and its owners as immoral and reprehensible, and those that fed it as part of the problem.  So they lashed out at the establishment that became the collective embodiment of “cheaters”.  Speculation may suggest that this was perhaps an action justified by someone’s personal betrayal as the initial motivator.    If so, how much different is this from any sort of “hate” crime.  It’s one small group of persons view attacking another group out of fear, rage, or just difference.

Everyone is feeling it – the judging, the suspicion, the hate – and all for different reasons.  It does NOT matter what your background – not race, gender, sexual preference, religion, or profession.   And yes, EVERYONE is being subjected to it in one way, shape, or form.  Just because you cannot imagine it does not mean it’s not taking place – it rather only suggest a lack of experience or imagination on your part.  ALL action that seeks to wreak harm on another and justifies its actions with a direct opposing viewpoint is, in the end, an action motivated by hate.  Period.   Which leads me to my next point of advice…

If you need to rationalize, justify, or explain an action to make it seem right – it isn’t.


Fear of Change

Lastly, let’s face an ugly fact that few people are comfortable with – the very Concept behind what a relationship means has been irrevocably altered into something unknown and undefined.  This is happening for a good many reasons, reasons with a simple logic to it.  The socio economic path we were following has changed to one greater egalitarian  REQUIREMENT.  The roles and values of the individual demands greater equivalence as the social game board is flattened across the globe.  Meaning that more people compete on a grander scale, with people around the world, across all races and sexes.

But we are still clinging to old values and expectations – the post war “American Dream” which has proven itself untenable as debt ravages the populace while still being demanded to contribute to Growth in a closed economic biosphere.  Limited resources means more equal measures of effort need to be all in order for families to survive.  Lines get blurred between roles as the definition of wage-earner versus household-contributor becomes more ill-defined.  This is a direct threat to the post-war family dynamic around which the American Dream was founded, and why that establishment is sounding more ludicrous and desperate than ever – the fear and outrage is driving the insanity.

This is no different than anywhere else around the world.  As resources are laid claim to, populations exploited, and peoples lands perverted or subjugated via politics and corporate expansion, the few yet capable lash out.  Across the world it is readily evident that People are Afraid of losing their identity, their way of life.  Be it the clash of religions or the fading antiquated “family values”, it is all fear because a way of life has changed, possibly forever, and the unknown is terrifying and fueled by resentment, confusion, and impotence.

The traditional relationship roles and concepts of identity have changed.  In part because of need, in part because of selfish desire and immediate gratification, and in part because we deny certain evolutionary behavioral rules that are common (but not completely consistent) to our species.  It’s the brain vs. our dreams vs. the times we live in – and they are a-changin’!  But instead of dealing open with these matters, as uncomfortable as they may be, we go through secrecy and clandestine machinations to satisfy our drives and fears.

This is one thing that, if one is willing to listen, the lifestyle in BDSM can teach us.  To let go of the selfishness and fixed ideas – because the variety of people, relationships, and activities are SO incredibly varied.  Rather, to know your own desires, limits, fears and to communicate with others to see if they honestly share in the same.  If yes – Great!  If no – then that’s okay, live and let live, and move on.  And, if Maybe – then perhaps keep the mind open and give something a try, and don’t resent the other if you didn’t like it – as the choice was yours to make.  Which brings me to my last point…

We need to take an honest look at any relationship one maintains, and speak up responsibly about what is and is not working for you.  


Closing Thoughts

Personally, I advise people not dishonor the other with deceit because you are afraid of the consequences.  It is highly possible that if you are dissatisfied, so is your partner, and both living the lie.  It could be you both need to make changes – but what those changes may be only you can determine.  It has been shown, however, that it’s only imagination and willingness that are the limits.  Face your own needs bravely, and be respectful yet direct about your needs – then face the choices you need to make and their and outcomes head on.  You cannot actually know the result until it unfolds, all projections of what may be are illusions often fueled by fear – and the actual outcome MAY surprise you.

If, however, you are committed to living a double life and handling all the complexity that involves, then please keep it out of the lives of those looking for a genuine devoted relationship.  As you go onto other dating sites (as I’m sure many will do with this sites exposure), be honest about being in a relationship and just looking for a fling.  Dating requires opening up, learning to trust, learning to be vulnerable.  There is far more involved in this than a sexual liaison or casual companionship.  The moments in new hopeful relationships where we begin to open up and exposing the genuine self are formative and lasting.  Betrayals or deceit caused during this period results in hurt which is that much more potent, tragically experienced and felt.  Spare them that pain.


Copyright 2015  – Limits Unleashed, LLC