Ashley Madison’s Dearth of Female Users: What It Reveals About Married Women Who Cheat

Since last month’s Ashley Madison hack and, subsequently, a massive public data dump of personal information on millions of cheating spouses, from their emails and credit card information to their most intimate sexual preferences, there has seemed no end in sight to the scandalous revelations that keep trickling in. First there was the reverberating disclosure that the baby-faced, reality TV star and spokesman for Christian family values, Josh Duggar, had made use of the married people’s dating site to solicit and pay for sex with a porn star. The woman in question told reporters how she first met Duggar at the strip club where she worked, that the interaction was “creepy,” and that she had “terrifying” sex with Duggar twice during his wife’s pregnancy, when Duggar was working as a lobbyist for the conservative Family Research Council. And the revelations that soon followed on the heels of Duggar’s public disgrace could fill a whole Rolodex of married men apparently cheating on their wives, from celebrities and one Christian vlogger to bankers, civil servants, U.N. peacekeepers and even Vatican employees. The implication? Married women interested in some extramarital action had quite the selection of adultery-hungry men to choose from. In many cases, apparently, these women could also enjoy some titillating visual incentive, in the form of countless “pictures of dicks” that the hackers have yet to release (and that in the context of an infidelity dating website add new meaning to the epithet “Tricky Dick.”) That reality makes the latest revelations — about how few women actually used Ashley Madison’s services — that much more of an unsolved mystery. Why so few women, in contrast to a grossly disproportionate majority of male users, frequented a website that facilitates marital infidelity, raises questions about married women’s likelihood to cheat and their cheating preferences and predilections in general.

Men an Overwhelming Majority of Ashley Madison Users

One thing is certain. However you dice or splice the latest reported gender demographics of Ashley Madison account holders, it remains clear that a far greater proportion of men than women made use of the site’s services for married people seeking affairs. Consider the following findings:

  • As many as 90% to 95% of Ashley Madison account holders were men, the hackers initially said.
  • A report by the tech news website Gizmodo originally identified a mere 12,000 female accounts, in contrast.
  • The latest reports seem to correct this figure, some alleging that as many as 5.5 million of Ashley Madison’s 37 million users were women.
  • According to some of the same reports, of those 5.5 million women at least 70,000 were “fembots,” fake female “robots” programmed by Ashley Madison to pander to their (real) male counterparts’ naughtiest fantasies.

If these latest figures are more accurate than earlier ones, suggesting more women used Ashley Madison’s services than originally believed, they still reveal a large disparity between the number of men versus women who went online seeking extramarital adventures. For example, if we were to believe Ashley Madison’s official line that real women use their website, with the implication that the latest reported figure of 5.5 million female users includes only legitimate women (as opposed to fembots), this would mean that at most, only 15% of Ashley Madison users were women.

So Few Women on Ashley Madison — A Lesson on Female Infidelity?

That puzzling gender discrepancy raises questions about female infidelity:

  • Are women less likely to commit adultery than men, and therefore more “virtuous” in matters of love?
  • Or is the issue that women are just better at hiding their extramarital affairs?
  • What if, alternatively, women simply cheat differently than men?

Experts are putting their money on the last of these explanations. Studies have shown women cheat nearly as much as men, after all, though their reasons for cheating may differ — a desire for an intimate emotional bond and greater relationship satisfaction foremost among them. Men, in contrast, are more apt to stray because of stronger sexual impulses and greater sexual excitability, the studies say. Could it be then that most women’s premises for having an affair are, if not more virtuous, at least a bit more forgivable in the public eye? Maybe. One survey by a U.K.-based extramarital dating site found that 57% of female cheaters said they felt love for the man with whom they were committing adultery — this in contrast to only 27% of the men surveyed regarding their mistress.

Women and Gender Differences in Cheating, Intimacy Disorders

Such gender differences in motivations to cheat make the revelation that so few women actually used Ashley Madison “unsurprising,” according to sex and love addiction expert Rob Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S. As the senior vice president of clinical development for Elements Behavioral Health (EBH), a family of recovery programs nationwide, Weiss was a first responder to the traumatic fallout for families of the Ashley Madison infidelity disclosures. (The website,, the first initiative in the nation to come to the aid of couples in crisis in the wake of the scandal, was the fruit of that response.) Weiss elaborated as to why he wasn’t surprised by Ashley Madison’s dearth of female users: “Men are aroused by objectified images and language — words, photos, film of sexual acts (even when completely devoid of relationship). So the idea of a quick anonymous or casual booty call would be more attractive to a man seeking to stray than your average married woman.” “Body parts and objectified sexuality” that you find in “traditional porn” are a turn-on for women, too, Weiss went on to note — but “only when the images or experience [women] are watching is inclusive of themes or elements of a relationship or intimacy between the porn actors.” Here, Weiss cited the example of the soft porn literary triumph Fifty Shades of Gray, dimensions of which also appear in Twilight, True Blood and other soft-core porn that caters to women. The theme you’ll see in many of these is “the good girl with a heart of gold who is willing to dig deep to ‘save’ a man who seems pretty bad, but she sees the good in him, which she will bring out solely via the light of her love,” Weiss said. The same drive can feed many a love addiction, an intimacy disorder that afflicts disproportionately more women than men in this country. (Men, in contrast, more frequently fall prey to sex addiction.) Thankfully, for men and women with intimacy disorders, Weiss is quick to offer some good news: addiction treatment can indeed help them recover and live healthy and productive lives. Sources:

  • “Male Sexuality May Explain Why Men Cheat More Than Women,” The Huffington Post
  • “Why Women Cheat: 5 Reasons for Female Infidelity,” The Huffington Post
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