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Ashley's ashes 

Please do a public-service announcement about the Ashley Madison hack, and request that NO ONE look up information on ANYONE other than their own spouse. I'm a former AM user. I've been married to my wife for 20 years. We met when we were both 20 years old. Seven years ago, I made a selfish decision to have an affair, and five years ago, my wife found out. She hated me for a while, but we worked things out. I have been faithful since then, and our marriage is better than ever. Since my wife already knows everything, I have no worries about her finding out. But what about every other person I know? It is mortifying to think about my colleagues or my wife's family poring through my profile information. I'm going to assume the best — most people have the common decency not to snoop into their neighbors' bedroom habits — but it would be great if you could ask people to respect other people's privacy.

Really Enraged Guy Requesting Everyone's Tactful Silence

I'm happy to back you up, REGRETS, but I don't share your faith in humanity. Most people are only too delighted to snoop into their neighbors' bedroom habits — particularly when doing so induces feelings of moral superiority. And I like to think the kind of puritanical busybodies who would go looking for names in the Ashley Madison dump are unlikely to be readers of mine, so they wouldn't see my Ashley Madison PSA anyway.

But I have to disagree with your suggestion that people should look for their spouses' names in the AM data. If someone in a shitty, high-conflict marriage needs an excuse to get out — because no-fault divorce isn't good enough for them — okay, sure, that person might wanna search for their spouse's name. But people who are in loving, functional, low-conflict, happy-ish marriages might want to think twice. Finding out that your spouse cheated — or fantasized about cheating — is impossible to unknow, and it's something many people can't get over. Caveat coniunx.

I'm one of the men caught in the Ashley Madison hacker net. But as pissed as I am about the bullshit — the company's lies about the security of its site, the hackers' self-righteous moralizing — I can attest to the fact that one can get what one is looking for on that site. Yes, there were a lot of fake profiles. Yes, there were a lot of pros. Yes, there were women looking to steal your identity. Seriously. But once you figured out the game, you could find a lot of real women on that site who were looking for someone to spend time with. I'll be pissed if I get busted as a result of all of this, but joining that site helped me reclaim my sanity after a sexless 25-year marriage.

Don't Attack This Adulterer

Slogging through the Savage Love mail for the last 25 years has convinced me of this: Some married people have grounds to cheat. Men and women trapped in sexless or loveless marriages, men and women who have been abandoned sexually and/or emotionally by spouses they aren't able to leave — either because their spouses are economically dependent on them (or vice versa) or because they may have children who are dependent on both partners. It would be wonderful if everyone who felt compelled to cheat could either negotiate an open relationship or end the one they're in now, but there are cases where cheating is the least worst option for all involved. Loyalty isn't something we can demonstrate only with our genitals.

I'm an Ashley Madison user in an open relationship with a bi woman. I can assure you that a large number of AM users — hundreds of thousands — are also in open relationships. The hackers made no effort to distinguish between adulterers and people in consensual, honest relationships. They are smearing thousands of people as adulterers who are much more honest in their relationships than the average person.

Healthy Openness Not Egregious Sexual Trysts

The hackers also made no effort to protect Ashley Madison members living in countries where adultery is punishable by death. Along with all the cheaters, wannabe cheaters, and people in honest open relationships, HONEST, the hackers exposed hundreds of people living in Saudi Arabia — some of them gay. Do the people out there saying AM members are getting what they deserve realize that some are going to get their heads cut off?

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