How Australia and America Compare Amidst the Ashley Madison Affair

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The Numbers Don’t Lie…Even If We Do:

The secrets up. There’s no point hiding any longer.

While in Grade 8 and unbeknown to my girlfriend Tracey* of three weeks, I kissed Jessica* – the new girl – behind the band rehearsal room at school (*NOTE: Names have been changed to protect the fragile identities of individuals who would clearly be heartbroken to learn this news today!)

This infidelity has plagued me ever since. And with the release of the hacked Ashley Madison data, I guess my time is up. Maybe this is actually the blessing in disguise that will finally set me free?

“Life is Short. Have an Affair”

For those unfamiliar with who or what Ashley Madison is, it’s an online dating service for people who are married or in a committed relationship. Their slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” The site receives more than 124 million visits per month, and its members include 39 million people across 46 countries.

On August 18, hackers released the names, addresses, sexual fantasies and credit card information of its customers; after threats to shut the site down were ignored. This has obviously caused a lot of people to get their ‘knickers in a twist’. Quite literally.

But parking my own brief momentary lapse of judgement with Jessica at age 13 to the side, I was curious to find out how my fellow countrymen and Americans compared when it came to issues of monogamy, infidelity and the satisfaction we derive from our significant others.

Surprise, surprise…I wasn’t the first to ponder upon this. Data visualization website, dadaviz, has already compiled a list of the 25 cities with the highest number of Ashley Madison accounts based on the release of hacker data just this week.

While the US trumps Australia in terms of number of cities – 12 vs. 4, two Australian cities rank in the top-six. This is versus just one – New York – for the same top-six measure.

asley madison cities
Image Source Dadaviz 

And when you add up all the US and Australian accounts in the top 25 cities list (US: 1.57M; AUS: 673,000) and compare those numbers to our relative population sizes, the numbers are also quite illuminating

From the ‘Top 25 cities’ list alone, less than half a percent of the US population have an Ashley Madison account, compared to 2.9% of the Australian population. Turns out us Aussies are interested in throwing another shrimp onto more than just the barbie!

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Australian Attitudes And Prevalence Of Cheating

Based on data from the Australian Study of Health and Relationships, we know that 96% of Aussies expected that they and their partner would not have sex with anyone else. 57% of men and 71% of women said they had discussed this with their partner, and 97% of those who discussed it said they had agreed about it. But as always, actions speak louder than words…

According to the Great Australian Sex Survey (which surveyed more than 17,000 Australians), 38% of Aussies admitted to having cheated on a partner at some time in the past, and 29% indicated that a partner had at some time cheated on them. A different study found that in the past year alone, 3% of men and 1% of women who had been in an agreed monogamous relationship for more than 12 months had had sex with someone else. 

So, how do websites like Ashley Madison fit into this picture? Well in the past year, 7% of Aussie men and 4% of women used the internet or a phone app to scope out and look for their cheating other.

And how are Aussies most likely to get caught? According to a report by TelstraAustralia’s largest telecommunications and media company – 40% of Australian women admitted to checking their partner’s mobile inbox for flirty texts, with 24.5% claiming to have caught their partner “flirtexting” with someone else by text message or email.

What Fuels Aussies’ Interest In Cheating?

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Image Source: Funnyasduck

This all begs the question: What fuels an Aussies interest in having an extra-marital affair in the first place? The Durex Sexual Wellbeing Survey unearthed that 60% of Australians are having weekly sex, yet only 42% of them are actually satisfied by the sex that they are having.

Just for context, Vegemite is a permanent fixture in nine out of ten Australian pantries; meaning that as a nation, we’re 48% more satisfied by a black, salty yeast spread than we are by our significant others. In comparison, our Yankee friends are having less weekly sex (53%) but are 6% more satisfied by the sex that they are having. Quality vs. quantity?

And are Aussies a forgivable bunch? Marriage breakdowns have increased in Australia from about 10% in the 1960s to 40% in the 1990s, however a study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that only about a fifth of divorced Australians blamed infidelity as the primary cause of their marriage breakdown.

By contrast, financial difficulties was cited as the leading cause of break-ups, accounting for 26% of all marriage breakdowns. When asked, just over 30% of Aussies said they could forgive their partner if they cheated, whilst 21% said they couldn’t and 28% remained unsure.

How Does This Compare To The United States?

According to a 2014 Gallup morality poll on US attitudes towards a number of issues, only 7% thought that it was morally acceptable for married men and women to be having an extra-marital affair.

Despite this, in a 2006 study, about 19% of married men and 13% of married women under the age of 30 said that they had been unfaithful to their spouse. These numbers have skyrocketed from 1991, with the number of unfaithful wives under 30 having increased by 20% and husbands by 45% in just a 15 year period. 

And according to a 2015 study by the Associated Press and Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 57% of men and 54% of women admitted to having committed infidelity in at least one relationship they’ve ever had, with 22% of men and 14% of women admitting to have strayed at least once during their married lives.

Of that cheating sample, 36% admitted to having an affair with a co-worker, 35% admitted to infidelity on a business trip, and 17% admitted to infidelity with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law. Are these extra-marital indulgences consequence free? Apparently not, with 2.5% of children the product of an extra-marital relation.

Interestingly, 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.

For all the questions that the Ashley Madison affair raises, I’d like to use the opportunity to apologize to Tracey, and let her know that Jessica never meant anything real to me, and that I’ll always remember the way she tasted like tutti-frutti Bubblicious...

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