Adultery is good for your marriage – if you don’t get caught, says infidelity website boss
He receives regular death threats, websites are devoted to his demise, the Vatican has sent letters of complaint and the Queen of Spain has sued him.
The man in question is not a criminal, a terrorist or a dictator. Instead, he is the businessman behind the world’s biggest website for extramarital affairs.
Noel Biderman is the Canadian founder of Ashley Madison, a controversial but globally popular adultery website that connects married men and women and discretely enables them to have affairs.
Famed for its catchy motto – “Life is short. Have an affair” – the dating service is free for women but paying for men. Its array of features include virtual “winks”, instant messaging and “travelling” services for members seeking an affair during business trips.
Its mobile app uses GPS technology to track down the nearest available potential lover.
The website is currently in the throes of a rapid global expansion: since launching in Canada on Valentine’s Day in 2002, it has attracted more than 24 million members in 37 countries, with South Korea launched last week.
Mr Biderman, 42, is a man clearly used to defending his business. In an interview with The Telegraph last week during a visit to Japan – the fastest growing country in terms of membership – he reeled out a string of polished reasons as to why infidelity is the way of the modern world.
“Infidelity exists in every culture in the world,” said Mr Biderman, who refers to himself as the “Emperor of Infidelity”. “There’s no place you can point to on the planet where there is no unfaithfulness.
“In the lifetime of a relationship, on the male side, close to 70 or 80 per cent of men are going to be unfaithful at some point or another in their marriages. And the female side is incredibly on the rise – it’s well past 40 per cent.”
This appears to be the case in Britain in particular. Since the UK launch four years ago, more than 825,000 members have joined – in particular, married women aged between 38 and 42.
“Our brand really resonates well with a married woman, 15 plus years into her marriage who doesn’t feel that celibacy should slip into the marriage at this time,” he said.
Japan is another success story, with one million members joining within nine months of its launch last summer.
“It seems to me that culturally, this region does the best at separating sex and marriage,” added Mr Biderman. “You can do sex outside marriage much more liberally here. That’s not to say that they don’t present a traditional face, as most societies do. But I think that if we had to measure the infidelity economy in Japan, it’s incredibly sizeable.”
The reasons for soaring infidelity around the world are multiple, according to Mr Biderman.
The site is particularly popular in recession-hit nations such as Spain, while affluent communities with large disposable incomes are also major players in the “infidelity economy”.
But Mr Biderman ultimately believes that the human race is simply not biologically programmed to remain faithful – and that this can be good for a marriage.
“People have affairs because we’re not engineered for monogamy,” he said. “Monogamy didn’t come about from some great scientific research. If anything, the current social science tells us the opposite.
“That the longer the couple is together, invariably, after six months, their sexual encounters decrease, two years, they decrease even further. Twenty years into a relationship, we’re no longer sexually attracted.”
Needless to say, the company is rarely far from controversy. Mr Biderman has incurred the wrath of the Pope, with the Vatican sending a disapproving letter to Ashley Madison in opposition to its sponsorship of Rome’s basketball club Virtue Roma.
More recently, Singapore’s government banned the site, following a public outcry against its “flagrant disregard” for public morality. Mr Biderman plans to challenge the ban in court.
In response to claims of amorality, he believes that precise act of having an affair – without getting caught – can actually help save a marriage, the only other option normally being divorce.
“There was tons of infidelity before I got here,” he said. “The only encouragement I give is to say to people, there is a way to have the perfect affair.
“So the perfect affair is not only meeting someone like-minded, it’s also not being discovered. That’s what I’ve built: a platform where everybody here has put up their hand and said I’m interested in an affair, and the technology to keep it discrete.”
Perhaps most surprising are Mr Biderman’s revelations about his own private life: monogamously married for 10 years with two children, he describes his wife as unwaveringly supportive.
However, he candidly admits she does not share his views on infidelity: “If in the next decade, my sex life evaporates, I have no interest in being celibate.
“Because I have these wonderful children, an extended family I cherish, great economic success and homes – I have not worked for all of that just for sex. I wouldn’t get a divorce, therefore, if that happened, I’d try to have an affair.”