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Online "dating" catches on among newlyweds

By J. DeVoy

Via Roissy (I don’t care what he’s calling himself these days), Ashley Madison – the online dating service specializing in matching married men and married women – has had a membership explosion in the Toronto area.

Sexually frustrated and a little lonely, the 25-year-old started Googling “sex club” and “swingers club” before stumbling upon, advertised as a “discreet dating service” for people in relationships. Like most Torontonians, Susan, who did not want her real name used, heard about it before.

Three months and more than a 1,000 profiles later, she sat at the bar at a Hooters restaurant with Michael, a 23-year-old with a 31-year-old wife. “He understood where I was coming from and we had the same expectations,” she says. After about two hours, they got a hotel room.

That was what she was really looking for.

First: A 23-year-old guy is married to a 31-year-old and boffing a 25-year-old.  Let that sink in for a moment, especially when considering that the normal dynamic of gender relations pairs younger women with older men.  But, the real story here is that women are signing up and actually using this online “dating” service.  Often, female profiles on online dating services are computer-generated, which normally is disclosed in the site’s privacy policy.  Famously, was sued for paying people to send e-mails and go on dates with members.  That doesn’t seem to be a problem with Ashley Madison.

According to Ashley Madison statistics, the number of Toronto-area female newlyweds on their site has skyrocketed in the past year. In March 2009, there were 3,184 women who had been married for three years or less actively using the service. A year later, there were 12,442.

Not bad, but not a guarantee that the users are attractive.  The secret to this success, according to the site’s CEO, is marketing.

Since he founded the service in 2001, it was clear to CEO Noel Biderman that attracting men would be easy. But he and his team thought their female clients would be desperate housewives or dedicated mistresses looking for “lifestyles and fun and sex and gifts.” They deliberately targeted women with everything from the name of the brand to the colour scheme of its advertising was designed to attract aspiring female cheaters.

They soon realized they had overlooked a robust and active demographic: “These were young women who, from their self-description … were only married a year or two and seemed to really be questioning the institution, their next step, entering into parenthood, staying with that partner,” Biderman says.

A skeptical eye may still be warranted.  As noted, there’s no representation as to the attractiveness of the site’s users.  There may also be the issue of user fatigue, where a large number of people register, don’t find what they’re looking for and never return, but don’t delete their accounts.  Statistics about users who have logged in within the last 30 days may be more informative than gross enrollment numbers.  Still, even if only slick public relations, the numbers bandied about in the article are impressive.

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