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Singapore Tries to Stop Infidelity Site From Spreading in Asia

Unfaithful spouses in Singapore will have to get used to cheating the old fashioned way, as the world’s most popular infidelity website has been banned by officials. Ashleymadison.com, a matchmaking site that facilitates extramarital affairs in nearly 30 countries, made a big push into Asia this year, beginning with Japan and Hong Kong. The website ...

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Unfaithful spouses in Singapore will have to get used to cheating the old fashioned way, as the world’s most popular infidelity website has been banned by officials.

Ashleymadison.com, a matchmaking site that facilitates extramarital affairs in nearly 30 countries, made a big push into Asia this year, beginning with Japan and Hong Kong. The website would have launched in Singapore next year, had the government not intervened. Singapore’s social affairs minister, Chan Chun Sing, argued that such a website would erode morality in the nation, which already outlaws online pornography and nudie magazines like Playboy. "Promoting infidelity undermines trust and commitment between a husband and wife, which are core to marriage," he said.

Singaporeans seem to share the sentiment. A social media campaign aimed at banning Ashleymadison.com has already accrued 25,000 supporters. Officials have vowed to block the site, under the country’s Broadcasting Act.

It’s a much chillier reception than the matchmaking site has received elsewhere in Asia.

When Ashleymadison.com launched in Japan, it logged 230,000 visits and 70,000 members within the first four days. Noel Biderman, who started the website in 2001, told the Wall Street Journal that he viewed Japan as a promising market because of the breadth of sexual services already available in the country. And because those services overwhelmingly target men, he added, the Japanese iteration of the site, with its pink color scheme, would specifically cater to women. The demand, it turns out, was high: During the first few days, new members were "signing up faster than customer care could screen them." Now, the site boasts 160,000 women members — 60 percent of whom are married.

Hong Kong had the most successful launch rate to date, closing out the first month with 80,000 new members. In this iteration of the site, women can join for free while men pay about $45 to get started. Perhaps as a result, the rate of single men who have signed up is considerably higher than the worldwide average. The site’s become so popular in Hong Kong that around 325,000 people in Mainland China have tried to log in, too.

CNN reports that the company plans to expand to 10 more Asian markets by June of next year, with Taiwan next on the list.

Biderman has often argued that the site isn’t a threat to marriage, as Singapore’s Chan Chun Sing argues, but is rather an outlet for the natural human impulse to cheat — and that goes for both sexes. Giving people the freedom to act on these impulses, he’s argued, could even help marriages. Indeed, the Japanese version of the website is marketed as a "marriage-saving site." That approach is largely aimed at women users — though the suggestion that women are cheating in an effort to save their marriages, rather than cheating for the same reasons that men do, seems dubious, if not a bit sexist. 

The company’s focus on women may prove prescient, however. Divorce in Asia has been rising steadily in recent years, largely tied to greater educational and economic opportunities for women. Asian women are marrying later, and divorcing more readily. The notion that women are choosing to cheat in greater numbers is certainly credible, though the reasons for it may be simpler than AshleyMadison.com is willing to admit.

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