"The reason people have affairs is that they want to stay married," contends Noel Biderman, chief executive of Avid Life Media Inc., which operates AshleyMadison.com, the world's largest online hookup site for married people. "There's a lot at stake in a marriage such as social status, jointly owned property, maybe children. A divorce might be messy, even difficult depending on the laws."
In Japan, according to a recently conducted survey, 84 percent of Japanese women believed an affair worked as a plus for their marriage. However, extramarital affairs are not new to Japan, the nation that invented the geisha in its male dominated society.
Japan does have a relatively low divorce rate at about two cases per 1,000 people vs. four cases in the U.S. (although sinking marriage rates in Japan also lower the divorce numbers). In the 1960s, divorces were even rarer, with less than one per 1,000 people. But are extramarital affairs the reason?
With its slogan, "Life is short. Have an affair," Ashley Madison has nearly 25 million users worldwide since being started in 2002. It now has 1.07 million users in Japan after opening in June last year. Revenue comes from charging the male users, who are 70 percent of site's members globally.
An irony is that Biderman says he is in a monogamous marriage and has two children and insists the social network is just a tool and no one can force anyone to betray a spouse.
Not always received warmly, Singapore's government blocked access to the site last year, calling the service a "flagrant disregard of our family values and public morality."
As to guilt, about a fifth of respondents in the global sample said they felt guilty while the Japanese felt almost no guilt at all - 2% women and 8% men. An additional qualifier is that Judeo-Christian morality is prevalent in Western nations whereas the Japan culture prides itself on the art of seduction such as "The Tale of Genji."
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