In a world where dating has become digitalised, the stigma surrounding casual hook-ups and ‘sex-apps’ such as Tinder has been greatly reduced. The landscape of romance has changed dramatically in recent years, and it is with this in mind that the notion of extra-marital dating websites needs to be viewed. In France, significant controversy and opposition have been aroused by the latest advertising campaign of Gleeden, a dating website aimed at married women seeking affairs. The posters, which featured a half-eaten apple representing the temptation of Eve, have sparked legal complaints from conservatives within the country, who are shocked at this apparent disregard for the sanctity of marriage. However, this is a country which but a few short months ago saw thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets in support for the freedom of expression following the massacre at Charlie Hebdo.
Gleeden is not the only extra-marital dating website available, either. There are many more, with names such as ‘Illicit Encounters’, ‘No Strings Attached’, ‘Forbidden Flirt’ and ‘Lonely Cheating Wives’. The most well known these in the UK is Ashley Madison, with the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair”, and well over one million members. Whilst cheating on your partner is not necessarily something to be encouraged, censorship of advertising is definitely not the answer. Adultery is not illegal, and so to attempt to prevent people from indulging it is a step in the wrong direction for our civil liberties.
There are dating websites catering for every personal taste, from gay hook-ups on Grindr to ‘uniformdating.com’, which does exactly what it says on the tin. These dating sites are no different in that they are appealing to a pre-existing market, and simply capitalising on digitalisation and the utilisation of the internet. Tinder experienced similar opposition as a result of its promotion of casual sex, from people who deemed it to be immoral or simply disapproved. These websites have identical purposes, and are being met with exactly the same distaste from people who would not choose to use them. Indeed, many people regarded equal marriage as devaluing the institution, and undermining the “sacred bond between a man and a woman”. But just because there are some people who disapprove, this does not mean that the advertising should be censored.
Moreover, simply suppressing the adverts would not end the practice itself. Throughout history, husbands and wives have been unfaithful to one another. In the 16th century, a woman did not need a website to cuckold her husband, and it is not essential nowadays. Our society, however, is geared towards making our lives faster and easier, capitalising on advances in technology, and these websites are an inevitable result of this social trend.
Relationships come in all forms, and a monogamous male-female marriage is no longer seen to be the only socially acceptable option. Open relationships, polyamory, civil partnerships, polyfidelity, life-partners: the parameters of what constitutes a ‘normal’ relationship are constantly being readjusted. For some married couples, extra-marital affairs are not taboo. Indeed, these websites are not only used under solitary secrecy, but are often used by couples looking to bring someone else into their relationship, in whatever capacity.
These websites are not a danger to ‘traditional family values’, as affairs and infidelity are as old as the institution of marriage itself, and the websites are simply a logical consequence of the increase of technology. People should be allowed to choose their sexual partners without state intervention; if they choose to be unfaithful, then they are not breaking the law and it is a personal decision. Censorship of adverts is not beneficial to anyone, but the influence of an oppressive state.