General Question

nikipedia's avatar

Should organizations enabling cheating be illegal?

Asked by nikipedia (27300 points ) October 27th, 2008

In general, I am a supporter of the government staying out of people’s bedrooms. But this morning (stuck in unmerciful traffic), I heard an advertisement for a website that allows people to find people who are specifically already in relationships so they can have affairs together.

This directly infringes on the happiness of an innocent third party (the person being cheated on)—not to mention it violates our social contract (i.e., we have all pretty much agreed that cheating is wrong). So neglecting the nitty gritty of whether this violates any standing laws, do you think this should be legal? Or am I just imposing my narrow-minded worldview on other people’s lives?

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48 Answers

tonedef's avatar

I think that you’re imposing your morals onto the law. Certainly, services like that should be socially sanctioned, but not legally. Since adultery is not illegal, it would make no sense that being an accomplice to adultery would be illegal.

Edit: I see your link, Nikipedia, and this edit pertains to that. As you failed to specify which region of the world you were addressing, and because you presumably were not stuck in traffic in Saudi Arabia, I was assuming the western world. Sorry for the ethnocentrism. Should it be illegal in fundamentalist theocracies? Why not? Being raped is a de facto capital crime in some parts of the world. With regimes that are so oppressive, I wouldn’t be surprised to see matchmaking for the married be illegal, but I doubt it would even happen in the first place.

nikipedia's avatar

@tonedef: The legality of adultery is arguable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery#Criminal_penalties

bodyhead's avatar

There are tons of laws in place that you’d have to be a morally corrupt person to follow. There are always loopholes in any law. OJ got off.

Are you going to prosecute old people with dementia that jaywalk?

There are tons of essay writing companies that help college students cheat. It’s legal.

Maybe the people on ashley madision (the website I suspect you are talking about) have understandings that they have open relationships. You shouldn’t make laws based on your definition of a relationship. It’s not necessarily everyone’s definition.

tonedef's avatar

PLEASE excuse the tone of my edit. I just get very riled up when governments try to impose their personal viewpoints on consenting adults’ sex lives. From what I can tell, though, outside the military, prosecution of adultery in the United States is relatively unheard of. I was operating from that belief in my answer.

But, again, I meant no disrespect, and I’m sorry for the tone.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@Tonefef: I can get you a far more current article in a few minutes. Not so long ago, there was a case in North Carolina where a woman was considering suing her husband’s new partner for alienation of affection. A suit that, if ruled in her favor, would have marked the other woman as a felon.

Which would kind of be amazing to have to explain on job applications from then on.

Edited to add: There was a newspaper write up on this that I am currently tracking down. I can’t remember if she went through with it or not, which is why I went the safe route with “considering”.

EmpressPixie's avatar

But in general, I think your sex life is your sex life and we shouldn’t stick our legal noses into it unless you ask the court system to by filing divorce papers or other papers against your partner. If you want to seek sex outside of marriage, there are many reasons you might do so—legitimate or not—and I don’t see any reason that I should be able to govern your ability to do so.

dalepetrie's avatar

I believe exclusivity is a moral and not a legal obligation, and in those jurisdictions where it is a legal obligation, it’s not just for the law to be adjudicating morality, any more than it would be to say, outlaw gay marriage or sodomy. These decisions should be left to the individual because monogamy is a societal construct, nothing more. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that there are evolutionary purposes to infidelity.

Partnering with another individual in parenting is an evolutionary must because it allows the parents to provide for the offspring in differing ways which lead to greater success of the offspring. But it’s also true that in a purely physical sense, if a woman marries a “safe” partner, someone who is say financially stable and can provide for his wife and children, but then has an affair with some macho, musclebound stud, if she has sex with both men while she’s ovulating and gets pregnant, it’s been proven that her body will actually create more favorable conditions for the interloper’s seed to take hold.

Personally, I think infidelity is disgraceful, dishonest and vile. But whom you choose to have sex with is your business, period, and there should be no laws abridging your right to fuck up.

asmonet's avatar

Ooh, dalepetrie is posting. I can’t wait!

As long as adultery is illegal in some areas a business should not exist that facilitates the violation of those laws in the same place. However unused they are. I agree with dalepetrie though, myself.

That being said, that business is not somewhere I would go. It goes against my own personal morals, but if people want a service they’ll eventually find someone willing to cater to them. What people do with the free time is none of my concern.

tonedef's avatar

@empresspixie: a civil suit (suing) cannot result in a criminal penalty (felony conviction), as far as I know

@asmonet: you can get some insane glass pipes as long as you don’t say the b-word!

tinyfaery's avatar

No more than a dating service in a state that offers no legal protections, and in some cases has laws prohibiting same-sex relationships

EmpressPixie's avatar

@tonedef: That’s why it stuck with me—it was a particularly strange outcome. Of course, I read it while on vacation in a local paper, so they might have done a retraction later.

tonedef's avatar

@tinyfaery: this is a good contradiction to @asmonet’s assertion that “a business should not exist that facilitates the violation of those laws in the same place. However unused they are.”

Under that premise, all gay bars and gay chatrooms would have been outlawed, as they facilitated sodomy. I understand that this is more of a civil rights issue, but it’s analogous in the facts of the case.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

Cheaters are going to cheat. The website is not going to make it more prevalent.

asmonet's avatar

I think you’re making quite the logical leap there, tonedef. The purpose of a gay bar or club is not to go and engage in sodomy it’s function is primarily a meeting place for people within a particular group to socialize with like-minded people. It is up to individual’s to determine their behavior beyond that point.

This website is intended to match legally commited people with other’s for the express purpose of having illicit affairs with one another.

A bit of crowbar separation, if you please.

I’m going to continue on this thread more when I get home and I’m not typing on my phone.

tonedef's avatar

@asmonet, I don’t really see the leap. Both a gay chatroom (which, categorically, are extremely cruisy) and a married-singles personals site both serve to connect two people for the express purpose of breaking the law (if both were illegal).

bodyhead's avatar

In that case, phone books that list escort services (all of them) and craig’s list should be illegal.

The whorehouses in Nevada should be illegal because some people going to them cross state lines to engage in prostitution.

There’s no way this type of website should be illegal. Even if you are cheating, it’s simply a civil crime and not a criminal one. Your crime is against the person that you entered in a contract with, not against the state. I don’t think the government has the right or the privilege to insist that I become a moral person when they’ve taken steps to reward their friends, undermined the economy with a war based on deceit and our government officials regularly step down because of cheating.

Do what I say and not what I do? I don’t think so.

asmonet's avatar

Um I don’t honestly know how to clarify further.

The website is for sex.. that’s it’s purpose.

A chat room is a social forum which users can pervert or tailor to their own interests. Gay bars are a location again for socializing, which can if people are interested be used for finding someone interested in sodomy but that is not their purpose.

It’s just not the same.

bodyhead's avatar

The commercial actually says discrete encounters. It’s your dirty mind that jumped straight to sex.

fireside's avatar

If you dig deep enough, you can find the website’s take on the ethics of their service:

Does Ashley Madison encourage infidelity?

No, Ashley Madison does not encourage anyone to stray. In fact, if you are having difficulty with your relationship, you should seek counseling. However, if you still feel that you will seek a person other than your partner to fill your unmet needs, then we truly believe that our service is the best place to start.

Apparently, their position is that people may cheat anyway, so they are simply providing a dating service.

Personally, I think it is wrong and would hopefully fail due to market pressure, but it is not illegal. There’s plenty of other websites whose sole purpose is to hook people up but their legality isn’t questioned.

asmonet's avatar

Other websites generally do not try to cater to the married crowd specifically.

BronxLens's avatar

Why bother reading the lengthy ‘ethics of service’ (or lack of) when it’s clearly stated in their motto:
LIFE IS SHORT. HAVE AN AFFAIR.™

fireside's avatar

Oh, I’m not saying that they are not targeting a certain market segment.
But like others have said, it’s a question of morality, not legality.

And they definitely didn’t make the ethical information very easy to find.

nikipedia's avatar

I think the ethical claims are totally bogus. Claiming not to support infidelity while running a website facilitating infidelity is just a load of bullshit.

bodyhead's avatar

Cigarettes state that you should not smoke because you might develop health problems. All radio commercials I’ve heard for casinos also mention that if you have a problem with gambling there’s a number you can call to enroll in a program.

The website wouldn’t be there if everyone supported fidelity. The market would drive the website under in a manner of months. It’s not the company that’s immoral, it’s everyone using it. If I make a knife, and someone stabs and kills someone with it… It’s not my fault simply because I made the knife. It’s the fault of the user.

It’s not a bad company. We’re a bad society because we support a company like this and make it profitable. And really, if I was still a Catholic, I might say that it’s not my place to pass judgment on others. That’s usually only reserved for your deity.

I don’t support prostitution but if you were to give me a million dollars to give you a hand job, I’d do it in a second. Money changes everything.

dalepetrie's avatar

This organization sounds kind of like the sexual equivalent of a head shop. You know, the store that sells all the bongs, but has a sign that says they expect their customers to comply with the laws. Here it’s kinda like saying “as far as we know, you have an open relationship, we expect you to do the right thing in using our service”

wink, wink…nudge nudge

tinyfaery's avatar

@dale I was thinking the same thing. Also, cars that go over 70 and websites that offer old term papers and exams. How about websites that sell sex toys; in some states it is illegal.

cyndyh's avatar

That site sounds like a great place for blackmailers to target married people who want to keep things discrete. There’s just not a safe way to cheat. It all eventually comes back around.

It’s sad for the person being cheated on, but I don’t think it should be made illegal. Government shouldn’t have an interest in what happens between consenting adults.

nikipedia's avatar

I guess my question wasn’t intended to be about what is legal but what should be legal.

I am not interested in punishing the two cheaters so much as protecting the innocent third party. You are all correct that two consenting parties have every right to do whatever they want—the reason I suggest legal intervention is because it is not JUST between those two people. A third party is necessarily involved in this case because it is intended for people looking to have an affair.

@bodyhead: I don’t think your analogy holds up. If you made a killing machine, designed with the intent to kill people and no other purpose, and then someone used it to kill people, that would be more analogous. Whether or not you then bear any responsibility for its use is an interesting question (and I would argue that you do).

asmonet's avatar

In terms of making it illegal to protect the third party – no. The government shouldn’t be looking out for it’s citizen’s personal heartache. That’s a pandora’s box of legislation.

dalepetrie's avatar

I wouldn’t make it illegal for an organization to help a cheater cheat, but I might make it legal for the person being cheated on to commit acts of grievous bodily harm on the cheater (from my own purely philosophical point of view).

asmonet's avatar

I like the way you think dalepetrie, I do.

bodyhead's avatar

I would argue that there is no machine who’s only purpose is to kill people.

Even if there was some type of magic gun that only shoots people… if you use it to kill people then under your judgment that would make the shooter a bad person. And whoever made that magic gun is a bad person too. Period.

Now enter a situation where your eight year old daughter is getting raped by someone much bigger then you. If you had the magic gun, you could end the situation immediately. Do you let the situation continue or end it with the magic gun? Does either outcome make you a bad person? Does this make the magic gun maker a bad person?

In your eyes, maybe.

In my eyes, using a tool to do bad things makes you a bad person. Making the tool does not.

dalepetrie's avatar

The feeling is mutual asmonet!

asmonet's avatar

@bodyhead: Oh, really? Of for that matter

nikipedia's avatar

@bodyhead:

there is no machine who’s only purpose is to kill people. [sic]

I was pointing out that for the purposes of analogy, the moral obligation of a knife-maker does not really parallel the moral obligation of this website’s creator. In order to have an analogous situation you would need a machine designed and intended to kill and only to kill.

And I am perfectly willing to concede that some murders are worse than others, just as some cheating is more evil than others. That in no way addresses any of the points I raised.

bodyhead's avatar

@asmonet, You could do different things with the electric chair and the gas chamber. The owners just choose to only use it for one purpose.

Tools are only as good as the users. If you use a machine only to kill people, maybe it’s you that’s messed up in the head… not the machine maker. For all the machine maker knows, the gas you are using in the gas chamber is oxygen and it’s being used to keep someone alive with some type of autoimmune deficiency. Your electric chair is just a chair until someone throws a switch. Should we kill all chair makers?

Even within the terms of this question, lets say that someone is in an extremely abusive relationship. They use this website as a way to get out of their current relationship without getting killed. Does that make them an immoral person? Does it make the creators of the site immoral? You can’t condemn the creators of a tool for how society chooses to use that tool.

Do you blame Albert Einstein for all the deaths that resulted from dropping bombs of his theoretical design on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I don’t.

Even if someone built a wicked torture device that was the worst one ever made, it wouldn’t be immoral until someone used it.

asmonet's avatar

So, what, you want four of those for your dinette?

laureth's avatar

If the government makes laws so petty as to declare websites like that illegal, imagine all the other ways they would crack down on similarly petty things in our lives. (Dairy fat gives some people cholesterol problems? Outlaw it! Factory farming is immoral and unkind to animals? It’s illegal now! Drunk driving kills? Outlaw alcohol!)

It’s not the website’s problem, it’s the people who use it to cheat. And while cheating is nasty and a deal-breaker, I’d say that government micromanaging our lives to that extent would be even moreso.

bodyhead's avatar

@asmonet, I would totally take four similarly designed chairs for my dinette.

I wouldn’t want anything that anyone had been killed in. I don’t need a device soiled and then dropped at my doorstep.

shadling21's avatar

Interesting site, interesting question, and interesting answers, all. I’m with all those that said, “It can’t be made illegal”.

tinyfaery's avatar

I question the idea of the “innocent party”; we have no idea what each person’s situation might be.

Zaku's avatar

@laureth – I agree, except I want this one: “Factory farming is immoral and unkind to animals? It’s illegal now!”

Sakata's avatar

Besides Craigslist, Married Personals, LonelyCheatingWives, CheatingWivesLink, and Desperate-Wife there are a series of websites dedicated to simply giving a list of other married personals sites such as adate-finder, LookingForSexy, DirectoryOfDating, and Oodle just to name a few.

Basically, these sites are all thinking the same thing, “If you’re going to cheat you may as well use our service.” Not a lot different than the mentality and justification a drug dealer uses.

Doesn’t make it illegal just immoral, but who’s more immoral the people that cheat or the sites that condone (and assist) with it?

bodyhead's avatar

That’s like saying, “Who’s more immoral? The people who built the gas chambers or the people who killed 1000s of jews. Obviously, building something is a far less immoral act then killing 1000s of people.

If I’m a gunsmith and I only sell to police does that make it moral? What if I only sell to criminals? Is the making of the weapon moral and the selling of it immoral? Does thinking immoral thoughts while I’m making the gun make it an immoral act?

I say accept personal responsibility. I would never say that someone else made me drink beer. I don’t think that bartenders and waitresses are enablers.

fireside's avatar

Jack Kevorkian served jail time for condoning and assisting his patients.
not that death is in the same range as spousal infidelity

Sakata's avatar

People leave the bar drunk they then get into a wreck or simply get a DUI. After that they proceed to sue the bartender based on the accusation that the patron should have been cut off once they were judged to be too drunk. How’s that the bartender’s fault?
Doesn’t matter who the enabler was.
Doesn’t matter who did what.

The fact is, moral or not, people are going to do what people are going to do. Nothing anyone does (or doesn’t do) to stop (or enable) it as a society (or as an individual) is going to change that.

In the case of a website (or websites) assisting people with the act of adultery, it’s not different than any other form of capitalism.

bea2345's avatar

We really, really have reached some kind of watershed: you go on the web to find a sexual partner? It is about as sad (and as pointless) as those Personals in the classifieds.

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