There are the ones who just want to meet to have sex; you can tell because their handles are direct and uncomplicated: Yours4Lust and Deep Passion Man.They list measurements and ask for yours, as though it's merely a matter of fitting one puzzle piece into another. Instead, I respond to the thoughtful ones, whose tales might help answer my questions.For my own safety, I won't reveal what I'm really doing. In my profile, I say that I'm married, because in addition to avoiding escorts, many of the men on the site don't want the complications of seeing a single woman. The rest of what I say is mostly true, and to weed out the more aggressive guys, my tone comes off as exploratory, not sexual. One man has his arm across the shoulders of a young Jon Bon Jovi. He wants to meet; he doesn't know I ran into him just last week. The more careful among them don't post pictures directly to the site, but they send a key that grants me access to a "private showcase" of images."I could never have this conversation with her," he says."She would start talking about the baby, or moving out of the city." She does not wear lingerie for him, like she used to. This man is somewhat detached, but also eager as a boy.I get a smile on my face when I have an email from you."He wants something from me that is not sex, even if it is disguised as sex. "Why is it I get the feeling I'm missing out on something very important? He says checking his email is his favorite time of day.Here on a site where the idea, ostensibly, is to facilitate no-strings-attached affairs, a lot of men are trying to forge real bonds. He thinks of me at work, he thinks of me when he is birdcalling. On Ashley Madison, wives are mostly reduced to pronouns, and in that reduction they are less a human than a fact that shares their home.
To get started, I create a profile with a fake name and a dark picture of myself and chart a plan. Then I'll meet a few of them for a drink, but there will be no drunkenness. I say I'm scared to live the rest of my life with unexplored desire. But my jaw hits the ground anyway when I realize whom I'm looking at. One man takes a picture in front of his 1987 Camaro, parked outside of a diner.He tells me he had a brief affair with a woman from one of his company's offices.He joined Ashley Madison because that encounter left him wanting more. "Everything about her consumed my thoughts, and that's when I first signed up.He says he likes it rough, and tells me he cheated for the first time a few months ago.He was in Vegas for a bachelor party, and he took a girl from the blackjack table upstairs to his room. Biderman is right about types like F., but wrong that all the men on Ashley Madison want sex and sex alone.It was partly out of curiosity, but also largely my attempt to take my mind off her." He was attracted to my fears about losing my independence. You think this is a site for sex in motels, private and dirty with condom wrappers in the folds of the sheets.