Cheater’s dating site Ashley Madison periodically spams bloggers with press releases about its users, revealing, for example, which New York neighborhood is the most adulterous and sowing panic among the faithful. But there’s always something unsatisfying and incredible about their data. No one we know will admit to using Ashley Madison, after all: That’s the whole point of Ashley Madison. In GQ this month, novelist Teddy Wayne delved into the network in order to bring us a more fully drawn portrait of the Ashley Madison adulteress. And she looks a lot more like Don Draper than Hester Prynne.
Wayne suspects that with “greater professional equality between the genders and third-wave-feminist sexual liberation,” women are now “cheating for the same reason that men have throughout history … to sate their sex drives and gratify their egos.” And the women he meets more or less fit his thesis. There’s a high-powered politico who “nearly ended up in Obama’s administration” and feels like “a dirty old man trapped in a woman’s body”; an early-thirties professional who sees herself as “more of the controller” in her marriage (“I earn more. I repair everything. I fixed up the house”); and the corporate woman who gets off on arranging affairs from her office as she “orders a secretary who has entered her office not to interrupt her conference call.”
Is it more proof women are the new men? Wayne’s story would make good “end of men” fodder, if the rise of the cheating, alpha female corresponded with a new class of young, virtuous beta males waiting to be seduced. Instead, the women of Ashley Madison meet fellow alphas: “publishers of magazines, CEOs, politicians, managing partners at law or investment firms” according to one, late-forties user. This phenomenon might be better filed under “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”