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Originally from Canada, Biderman's website has around 2,100,000 users in Europe, the majority of whom come from Spain. He explains this with the idea of Mediterranean passion, but Alicia Gallotti, spokesperson for the Spanish branch of a Norwegian married dating website called Victoria Milan, says the crisis helped. "A crisis generally promotes the search of new emotions and feelings that help people evade reality."

Both websites have a female name, they both have a surprisingly similar image on the homepage and while the Canadian slogan is "Life is short, have an affair," Victoria Milan states: "Revive the passion, find your affair." This slogan caused a lot of criticism when it was posted on billboards across Sweden. But it is hard to tell if the problem was the advertising campaign or the advertised product itself. The Ombudsman of the Scandinavian country received a record number of complaints "for the suffering they could inflict to couples and their kids." In their defence, representatives of Victoria Milan answered that "no one who is happy with their relationship will use our services only because we advertise it."

Billboard
Photo: Ashley Madison
Controversial publicity in Madrid.

In Spain, Ashley Madison set up a billboard in the center of Madrid with three faces and one slogan. The faces were those of Prince Charles of England, Spanish King Juan Carlos I, and Bill Clinton. The slogan read: "They should have used Ashley Madison." It was controversial only for a morning, because the billboard was taken down in 5 hours after the owners of the hotel that it was hanging from complained.

Monogamy is dead, long live monogamy?

Biderman argues that the concept of romantic love is very modern, and not absolute. "Until a few years ago, arranged marriages still existed, and only a few experienced the concept of marrying for love," he says, which holds true for probably 99% of privileged monarchs throughout history as well as common people today living in conservative cultures. Considering all the different ways to deal with relationships that have existed, how can we assume that one single model is the best?

"Monogamy is not natural, but a product of social evolution," explains Boris Trucco, a user of traditional dating websites. Anthropologically, you can hear arguments both for and against that idea. According to Professor Bobbie S. Low, who specialises in the use of evolutionary theory to understand human activities, monogamy was initially a matter of survival of the species, based on the human need for long-term, bi-parental care. On the other hand, Low argues that humans evolved, both materially and intellectually, to cover those needs without the need for monogamy. In other words, she is inclined to believe that monogamy is a thing of the past.

What makes it survive, then? Perhaps the reason is just cultural lethargy? The classical model for monogamy is promoted by Christianism, but the idea already came up before in Mesopotamic, Egyptian and Ancient Israeli societies and has prevailed in European society since. Today, in the era of moral relativism, religious values have lost popularity. The ultimate scale for or against monogamy seems to be whether it makes us happy. Consequently, a rise in alternative forms of relationships can be observed and the number of users of dating and cheating websites is constantly increasing. Ander Iribarren, a young sexologist, attributes the rise to our consumer society. "We are being pushed to seek happiness through the renovation of the things we own, and the same concept is transferred to the world of dating."

Teaser photo: Ashley Madison

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