So the Ashley Madison website has been hacked and all sorts of details that people probably don’t want made public are being threatened with the light of day. Ashley Madison being “the online personals & dating destination for casual encounters, married dating, discreet encounters and extramarital affairs”.
According to reports in the media that means the personal fetishes of between 900,000 and 930,000 Australians will be linked to their address and credit card details and made public. All very concerning. But the thing that has snagged my attention is that number: 900,000. According to the press “Ashley Madison has asserted that it has about 900,000 members in Australia.”
Let’s just think about that. There are 23.85 million people in Australia. So that 900,000 represents 3.7 per cent of the population.
Now this is a bit brutal, but for these practical purposes let’s agree that a site like Ashley Madison is most likely to be used by adults, and generally not the older end of the scale. The ABS publishes stats for the 15-65 year old range (although 18 would clearly be a better starting point for these purposes). There are 15,400,000 people in that range. So now our 900,000 represents 5.8 per cent of the population. Already that seems like an awful lot of people signing up to cheat on their spouse.
And there’s the other fact: Ashley Madison pitches itself as a site for those wanting an extramarital affair. So just for fun let’s look at how many people are actually married. It turns out the marriage rate is running at about 50 percent (de facto adds on another 10 per cent). In turn that pushes the Ashley Madison 900,000 up to about 11 per cent.
One final point: This is all just running off the numbers of people who registered with Ashley Madison. Surely that has to be a small proportion of those who are prepared to cheat on their spouse? Given the reluctance of many people to buy groceries online, there has to be a relatively small proportion of the population prepared to give their credit-card details and outline their sexual preferences to a cheating website. Surely?
Looking at this another way, 900,000 is about the same as the number of people employed in manufacturing in Australia. Or the number of peple employed in education and training. Or in yet another approach there are three times as many people deciding to cheat as there are people deciding to have a baby.
So, if the Ashley Madison 900,000 is to be believed, as you talk to people in the office, or bump into someone at the shops, if they are married there’s at least a 10 per cent chance, and probably much, much more, that they are cheating on their spouse.
The only possible conclusion is that either Ashley Madison is playing fast and loose with its numbers or Australia is loaded with people playing fast and loose with their marriage vows.