Ashely Madison.com and its sister sites had a motto, “Life is Short, Have an Affair”. The sites were very popular with over 37 million people signing up and posting pictures, descriptions and handing over credit card data.
by Hannah Jay
At the beginning of the month AshleyMadison.com was hacked and the entire membership database, including passwords, credit card data and those pictures were stolen. All 37 million of them. Then, this week, the entire file was posted to the “dark net” where it was quickly copied and distributed throughout the world. The tabloid press is having a field day finding accounts linked to prominent people and, no doubt, some smarty boots is already building a fully searchable database.
Obviously the AshleyMadison.com hack shows that your data online is potentially visible to the world and that online security is hit and miss at best; but most of us already knew that. Simple precautions such as using an “online name” and a pay as you go, pre-loaded, credit card would have made a lot of AshleyMadison.com clients a lot more secure. But there are some takeaways for escorts and their clients from the Ashley Madison fiasco which go well beyond the need for better online security.
The Perils of Affairs
People who used AshleyMadison.com’s services were looking for what the site described as “affairs”. Pretty much by definition an affair is when a person who is married or partnered “sees” a person who is not their spouse or partner. In most cases there are activities between consenting adults. However, unlike an escort encounter, no money changes hands.
You don’t need a website to have an affair. People have been “cheating” on their spouses since marriage was invented. Which is a very big deal, especially in the sex-negative Anglo Saxon world. While there is some evidence suggesting that affairs in the rest of the world are somewhat more accepted, in North America particularly, fidelity is seen as a red line in most marriages. Cross it and there will be trouble, big trouble, if you are caught.
Infidelity is recognized at law as grounds for terminating a marriage. Within the North American context the end of a marriage, along with all of the emotional turmoil, is hugely expensive. A roll in the hay can end up costing the errant spouse 50% of the matrimonial assets and all manner of alimony and child support.
For many people seeking extra-marital encounters the obvious place to look is their work place. Which is a terrible idea. Because if there is even a slight power imbalance between the parties, a workplace relationship can very quickly form the basis of sexual harassment litigation. So it is quite possible that along with losing your marriage, if you get involved with a work mate you can lose your job and find yourself being sued personally. Winding up dead broke as a consequence of a fling on a business trip is a very ugly place to be.
However, it gets worse. The conventional affair is fueled by a heady mix of lust, transgression and emotion. Even when both parties are married and committed to discretion, when the affair is broken off – which is a pretty standard outcome – the potential for drama and indiscretion is huge.
The problem with affairs in general is that there are no firm boundaries. There is no guarantee that what began discreetly will remain discrete. Promises are made and broken, expectations can become entirely unrealistic. At a more mundane level, encounters require schedule co-ordination on two sides, there is the danger than any meeting in a public place will be observed by friends or family, the simple question of “where” can become fraught in all but the briefest encounter.
However, leaving aside the legal, emotional and logistical issues there is one huge problem with most affairs: the parties are rarely very experienced in deception and that means they are not likely to be very good at it. A clandestine affair, whether arranged through AshleyMadison.com or over a casual lunch, will involve two people who are very unlikely to have thought through the ways and means of keeping that affair clandestine. The potential for disaster is around every corner: an untimely phone call: “I can’t talk right now” tends to raise suspicion, a hotel receipt in a forgotten pocket, a pretty scent hitherto unknown to a wife, odd bruises on upper thighs and, yes, lipstick on the collar are all “tells” to even the least observant partner. (So are STDs but that is a whole other subject – what were you thinking?)
Finally, when you are caught – and there was a good chance of that even before the AshleyMadison hack – there is really nothing to say. You have been unfaithful. And, because you have been unfaithful in an unbounded situation, your spouse or partner will almost certainly put the worst possible construction on your infidelity. Even a quickie at a convention can be more than enough to shatter the trust upon which marriages are based. Saying “But it was just a quickie at the convention” is as liable to cause the crockery to start flying as it is to make anything “better”. Because the currency of affairs is some sort of emotional, sexual connection which, in Anglo Saxon cultures, can never be explained, only sometimes forgiven.
In short, having an affair opens you up to essentially limitless risk without there being much opportunity to de-risk the situation because the risk, in some ways, is what give the affair the zest it has in the first place.
It’s Only Money
Escorts see a lot of married men. For the obvious reasons of course. However, one set of reasons which is not often discussed directly stem from the huge downsides which surround “no cash” affairs.
The escorting transaction is simplicity itself. A client finds an escort he wishes to meet, contacts her, she screens him and a rendez vous is arranged. A price for the escort’s time is agreed upon and cash (in most cases) flows from client to escort, the encounter occurs and either the escort or her client leaves. They may or may not meet again. What occurs during the encounter is up to the parties but there is no reason that all that will occur will be in the bedroom. In fact, the further up the escorting ladder you go, the less significant the sexual element becomes.
There is no point in pretending that a married man seeing an escort is not being unfaithful. He is. But there is a world of difference between seeing an escort and having an affair with a co-worker or that cute waitress over at the sports bar. That difference rests on the fact that, to the escort, even the most delightful encounter is first and foremost, business.
What the cash nexus for escorts means is that one of the people involved in the encounter is a professional. She is being paid good money for her time, her skills, her discretion and, perhaps most importantly, her emotional detachment. If her client never calls again, while she may be a bit disappointed from a business perspective and may have enjoyed the encounter in itself, she is not going to call him. Or stalk him. Or call his home. Or his business. She is not seeing him because she is falling in love, or lust: she is seeing him because he is paying her for her time.
As a professional an escort is in the business of solving such mundane matters as “where and when”. She may have an in-call or a standing arrangement at a hotel, or she may see her client at his convenience at his hotel (or more unusually, his home). She sets her own working hours and her business depends on her being available during those hours.
Just as importantly, a skillful escort understands the nature of a clandestine encounter at a professional level. If a gentleman is visiting her she will make sure that he has a safe place to park, a discrete route to her in call and virtually no chance of being spotted in a compromising position. She knows that as appealing as a lovely scent may be, it carries a risk of detection. While she may love a sultry red lip stick she will either leave it in her makeup drawer for her encounters or make sure not a trace remains as she sends her gentleman on his way. (A pretty, clear, gloss coat over the scarlet can save all sorts of embarrassment.)
In public a savvy escort is every inch a lady. Better still, she will have and give her client a great cover story for those unforeseen meetings with his wife’s BFF. She’ll be a consultant, online assistant, office interior designer – whatever fits best with her client’s actual life. She’ll also make sure to manage public encounters to minimize exposure. A discrete corner table avoids the public eye while giving lots of scope for a bit of teasing.
Her smart phone will display a professional looking picture and a caller id from a consulting company. Most importantly, she will take the time to determine what her client’s level of phone security is and what concerns he may have. The same is true for her email and her website. While she cannot control her client’s indiscretion or the snoopiness of his wife, girlfriend or IT department, she will make sure that her electronic tracks are covered. Unlike her clients, her business depends on projecting security and trust.
Part of what an escort offers her clients is the fun of an encounter but with as much of the risk of being caught removed as possible. Unlike a non-professional girlfriend, an escort knows she is in the risk management business even if her client does not actually notice all of the steps she takes to protect his identity and their encounters.
There is one other service an escort provides, at least implicitly, to her clients. On the off chance that her precautions are unsuccessful and her client is caught, he has a potential “out”. An encounter with an escort can and often is described as “It was just sex.” A man caught in an affair who makes that claim is going to have a difficult time trying to convince his wife that that cute girl from Human Resources was just in it for the sex. But saying that about an escort encounter is perfectly plausible.
The entire vexed issue of infidelity is, as often as not, about the injured party’s sense of self-respect. For an errant husband to try to explain away, or even gain forgiveness for, adultery with his co-worker or the girl he met on the subway or his wife’s second best friend is dicey at best. Because his wife will be at a loss for any sort of reason why this could be ok. Because all of these women are directly competitive with the wife. An escort, on the other hand, is the one woman who is not competitive. She is a professional who the wife will know only slept with her husband for money. This fact alone may not get the errant husband out of the doghouse; but it may well keep him away from the divorce Courts.
A Catered Affair
While a single encounter with an escort scratches a particular male itch in a relatively risk free environment there are lots of men who want something more. AshleyMadison.com was not dealing in one off encounters, it was facilitating full on affairs.
In fact, that is often what the higher end of the escort market does as well. Every escort who has been in the business a little while will have regulars. Clients who will want to see her more than once. These wonderful men realize that in a single encounter they are missing a great deal of the fun a girl has to offer.
From the escort’s perspective a regular client is a very good thing. First off there is none of the preliminary screening and discussion of the arrangements to get through. Nor is there the first date awkwardness which can make an initial encounter less than ideal. Plus the escort now knows her client a little and can focus on his specific needs and pleasures.
For the cautious client the most nerve racking elements of seeing an escort are done after the first encounter. He will be more comfortable with her and, perhaps most importantly, will begin to trust her.
Regular clients vary in their degree of regularity. Some men will wait for months to book the next appointment, others will be delighted with a weekly visit. But regardless of frequency, the relationship between an escort and her regulars, while always professional, can easily evolve into a comfortable, friendly, ongoing situation. In fact, with some regulars an escort may be tempted to switch from the retail, cash upfront for each encounter model, to the wholesale, monthly allowance which is the hallmark of the mistress relationship.
Becoming a man’s paid mistress provides the escort with a more stable income stream than retail escorting does. (And there is no reason why a girl can’t do both.) But to be a mistress requires a more complex relationship. In fact, to be a mistress is to become involved in an affair. But with crucial differences.
The AshleyMadison.com style affair, past the first meeting, is usually quite spontaneous. Both parties snatch time between their real life commitments to spend the proverbial “stolen hours” with their illicit lover. Sounds terrifically romantic and it sometimes is.
There is rarely much terrifically romantic about the mistress patron relationship. It can be great fun but that is because both the mistress and her patron understand and accept the boundaries of the relationship. While there maybe elements of dating – nice dinners, excursions and adventures, perhaps some travel – there is no sense that this is leading anywhere. Nor is there any sense in which the mistress wants her patron to leave his wife. The cash nexus is why she is there.
For an escort, being “kept” by one or more patrons solves the problem of how to pay the rent. It allows her to have much more control over her time. It also allows her to be more selective as to which of her other clients she wants to entertain because being “kept” means having a base income paid monthly.
For a gentleman contemplating the AshleyMadison.com affair, the idea of keeping a mistress might look daunting at first – it is an expensive proposition for one thing. But the benefits as compared to a non-paid for arrangement can easily outweigh the expense. A mistress is in the business of providing what her patron is not getting in his marriage. Sometimes that is sexual or tied into a fetish or role play; but often it is simply a respite from a busy, successful man’s hectic life. A few hours a week where he can let down his guard and be the focus of a delightful woman’s full attention.
Being or taking a mistress requires a good deal more maturity than answering a furtive ad on AshleyMadison.com. Life is indeed short, why complicate it with the potential perils of a random affair with a stranger who lacks any sort of professional detachment?
The Ultimate Luxury
Having an affair the AshleyMadison.com way leaves a man vulnerable to the hacking which just happened but also to the vagaries of the emotional needs of the assorted women who signed up there. Having an affair at all leaves a man exposed to potentially disastrous consequences with no real explanation in the event he is caught.
Having an evening with an escort or seeing a girl a couple of times a month or keeping a mistress are all ways men spoil themselves. Enjoying the attentions of a professional whose business depends on her discretion gives a man most of the upsides of an affair with virtually none of the downsides. Better still, having a fling with an escort is designed to have no long term consequences. It is part of the escort’s service that her clients can enjoy her company and then step back into their lives with no guilt, no sense of having made promises they cannot keep. As long as the money was in the envelope and a nice tip was on the dresser, a sophisticated escort will be delighted if her client calls again and relaxed if he doesn’t.
Safer, saner and ultimately far more comfortable, an escort offers her clients the pleasures AshleyMadison only hints at. Life is short; who needs the hassle of an amateur affair?