When a team of hackers dumped data online that revealed the identities of millions of users of the infidelity dating website Ashley Madison, among the revelations was just how few women seem to use the site. Ashley Madison claims that around 5.5 million of its 37 million users are women. But some stories asserted that the vast majority of the site's female profiles were fake. A data dive by Gizmodo found that "out of 5.5 million female accounts, roughly zero percent had ever shown any kind of activity at all, after the day they were created." We haven't verified that analysis, but if you're a guy looking to get lucky, those stats, if accurate, look pretty grim.
However, there are definitely women actively using Ashley Madison. In e-mail exchanges and phone calls with dozens of Ashley Madison men, I've spoken to men who complained about fake profiles on the site but also men that had several affairs with real, live women they met through the site. I've also spoken with a small handful of women.
Jodi* was one of the women I e-mailed after obtaining her e-mail address through the leak. Jodi, who is 35 years old and lives in the Mid-Atlantic region, has been married for five years and signed up for Ashley Madison in January. She declined to talk on the phone for fear of giving away too much detail and getting caught by her husband, but she agreed to share details of her experience on Ashley Madison with me via e-mail. Disclaimer: it's pretty sexy.
I had been receiving treatment for a very rare, potentially fatal, illness for a few years and at times it made me feel very unattractive. One day, on a business trip, I was seduced by a very aggressive man. He was the opposite of my husband. This guy just wanted to fuck me and it wasn't because of my great personality. It was entirely physical. I liked being objectified. I hadn’t experienced that before. The feminist in me is appalled, but I loved it. I became addicted to the feeling of being really wanted like that, to not being seen as a sick person.
This guy and I kept in touch and we saw each other a few months later, but then it ended. After that, I signed up for Ashley Madison. I wanted someone tall, athletic, and dominant. My husband and I get along very well, but we have very mismatched sex drives. The sex is very vanilla and I almost always initiate. He frequently turns me down too, which is discouraging. I’ve tried to address this with him many times to no avail.
I’ve met up with upwards of a dozen men from the site, but I haven’t slept with all of them. I get nervous every time. It's a pretty awkward experience. I was dating my husband before internet dating was really popular, so meeting people online is not natural to me.
One guy I slept with put his wife on speaker phone while I was in a hotel room with him. I had to listen to her grill him about where he was and what he was doing. I never saw him again. I couldn't deal with the wife thing and he didn't seem to know what foreplay was.
Another guy ended things with me because he felt guilty. Normal, right? Well, he didn't feel guilty about his wife. He felt guilty about betraying his eighth grade girlfriend who he called his "soul mate." He said she lives in the U.K. and told me she could read his mind. You can't make this sort of thing up.
I dabbled with a watered down version of a true dominant/submissive arrangement. He would give me orders and wanted me to call him by a title. I eventually ended this because it intruded into my "real" life and I realized that I only really enjoy being submissive during sex. One of several “assignments” I had was sending a picture of my panties every single morning. I got really tired of that. It was fun for a while though and I'm glad I tried it.
There are definite patterns I've observed in terms of sexual desires. For example, the vast majority of men I have talked to identify as "ass men." Men LOVE to talk about where they like to come. Unsolicited pictures of dicks are a very annoying problem. They want to be in control. I make it pretty clear that I want dominant men and I weed out the ones that are looking for a more romantic situation. I'm a pretty alpha woman in the rest of my life, but I love letting go of control in the bedroom. I can't get that at home (trust me, I've tried).
A surprising number of men don't want to use condoms. I insist and it's caused some very contentious conversations. I was actually once called a slut because I want to use condoms. Why on earth would I trust a man I met on a website designed for cheaters and liars?
The age range of the men I have been contacted by is 19- to 72-years-old. The age range of the men I have had sex with is 22- to 46-years-old. The 22-year-old initially lied about his age, but my arrangement with him was actually one of the most mature that I have had and he was a great fuck. There are a decent amount of younger single men on the site looking for older women.
The most interesting part of my Ashley Madison experience has been the conversation. I have talked to a lot of different men: doctors, lawyers, college professors, ex-professional athletes, military officers, business owners and company spokesmen with public decency clauses in their employment contracts.
If I turned on my profile for a few days, I would receive a deluge of messages. I would cull through those and line up maybe five or six to talk to. I can't really over emphasize how easy it is for a woman like me on that site. I'm about 5 feet 8 inches tall and a dress size ten. I would consider myself curvy. The last celebrity that I was told that I look like is a younger and hotter Jodie Foster, but that's probably a stretch. I'm not a webcam girl or a woman just looking for a sugar daddy. I actually want to have sex. If I lowered my standards, I could literally have had sex with a different man every night for a year. It was that easy. I'm not exaggerating.
I have recently gotten involved with a man in an open marriage. His wife knows all about me and he says she has a "girl crush" on me. We're friends on Facebook and I'm working up the nerve to chat with her. She seems like someone I could be friends with.
The vast majority of men that I’ve met love their wives or girlfriends and don’t want to change their home lives. They either want to do things to me that their wives won't let them or just want to have the passion back. It's really mostly just about sex. (Honestly, if a guy complains about his wife too much, I find it to be a huge turn-off.)
I'm not ashamed. I don't mean that I would want these stories associated with me publicly, but they don't fill me with a whole lot of regret. My first Ashley Madison experience is the exception to that. He convinced me to meet him right away with the understanding that we'd have sex right away if we were attracted to each other. It was really stupid and unsafe. I would never put myself in that situation again. I give myself an out and always meet in public first on a "no expectations" basis.
I have learned a tremendous amount not only about men, but about myself through being on Ashley Madison. I'm well-educated and have both undergraduate and graduate degrees in male-dominated fields. I'm ambitious. I'm a feminist. But I really like to be controlled by men in the bedroom. It's even better when they are much bigger than me and there's an element of risk to it. It's so hot when I have a hand resting on my throat, when I'm told to get on my knees, when my hair is pulled, or when I'm held down in a way that makes me powerless. I feel more feminine. The twenty-something recent college graduate version of myself would be absolutely scandalized by this.
I have some pretty obvious signs of my illness. You can't see them when I'm fully clothed, but they are there. I usually make partners aware prior to anything physical so they aren't surprised. Not one has cared. Men (at least in this context) are a lot less judgemental about women's flaws than we think they would be. It has helped build my confidence and move past what had made me feel maimed.
My husband has been wonderful throughout my illness and that is what makes me feel the worst about all of this. I don't feel guilty about the sex. I feel guilty about the deception. Being caught would be devastating.
But I think monogamy is dumb. It doesn't make sense that we expect one person to be our everything. I'm sure many people would say that I should end things with my husband, but why? We're compatible in every other way. Sex isn't that important to him. Years ago, I asked him for an open marriage and he declined. I would prefer to get everything I need from him or to be transparent about my sex life, but I can’t.
I think I'm a better wife and partner to him when I'm having an affair. I don't resent him for the lack of sex. I'm happier.
*We've changed Jodi's name to protect her identity. This story has also been edited for length and clarity.