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Duggar and Cheater Shaming



I pretty much agree with everything about Amanda Marcotte’s discussion of the Ashley Madison hack and Josh Duggar. Like her, I felt really icky about the whole thing since, while it’s not easy to feel bad for people who cheat on their partners, why should this be public information? It should not. On the other hand, there’s Josh Duggar and for him, it’s totally different.

But cheating is about violating a deeply personal agreement between two people. If the person you’re with doesn’t care if you sleep with other people, it’s not cheating. It’s all about an agreement that you decide between yourselves, and like all such agreements, the only people who should care what you do are people who your behavior directly affects. It’s not the business of the world at large.

Unless you’re Josh Duggar, of course. Or anyone else who fights publicly to use government interference to mess with the private sexual choices of consenting adults. If you fight for the government to limit or ban gay people’s marriages or women’s reproductive choices, then your sex life is our business. If only there were a way to do a targeted search of Ashley Madison data for that, while leaving everyone else alone.

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  • Sorry about comments accidentally being off on this post. Definitely not intentional. Now if I only I could figure out how to fix it….

    • djw

      I think I fixed it.

      • djw

        (I checked the box next to “allow comments”)

        • Thanks!

          Second time this has happened. Has something to do with a really weak internet signal in the room I stay in when I visit my parents. Who knows.

          • efgoldman

            Has something to do with a really weak internet signal in the room I stay in when I visit my parents.

            Lead in the walls will do that.

            • I look forward to increasingly violent behavior going forward.

    • Manju

      I noticed “0 comments” earlier and thought; wow, this fruit is hanging too low.

  • Mr. Rogers

    This whole thing freaks me out no end, not just because of the privacy issues but because of false positives either due to outright fraud or fake emails or people paying for accounts from stolen credit card numbers, or whatever. This is something that could totally fuck up your life and you might not be the slightest bit involved in it until you have to defend yourself. There are apparently already several fake ‘downloads’ floating around which might be scammers or might be disinformation from AM.

    This one is hitting me like one of my friends worries about nuclear war.

  • Keaaukane

    I was kinda impressed that there are 32 million users of the Ashley Madison website. Does that really mean that 10% of the US population is cheating on their spouse/SO?

    • LeeEsq

      Many of the accounts are dummy ones as I understand.

      • efgoldman

        Many of the accounts are dummy ones as I understand.

        Any body that uses their real info on that site is absolutely a dummy.

    • keta

      I’ve been told that businesses on the worldwide web do, in fact, sometimes do business worldwide.

    • Ahuitzotl

      Far more, IMO, just mostly not needing a hookup site

    • alex284

      Multiple accounts, international accounts, spammer accounts, accounts from people looking for cheaters but who aren’t cheaters….

      But still, I’m guessing that only a small minority of cheaters end up on AM.

      It’s impossible to know exactly because this isn’t something that people talk about (even with pollsters), but I’ve seen estimates going up to 60% of the married population.

      Even if the number is far less, that’s still a lot of people in a lot of cultures in a lot of eras doing something that’s generally socially condemned. The issue isn’t just a bunch of individual moral failures but possibly something a lot more interesting.

    • Halloween Jack

      Probably at least some of those are never-used accounts by lookie-loos who just wanted to look at some of the other accounts, you know, just curious as to what the options would be if they were the kind of people who did that sort of thing, which they totally weren’t. You know. Also, the person who leaked them said something about almost all of the accounts actually belonging to men, and someone else speculated that some of the fake accounts were catfishing by escort services and/or would-be extortionists.

    • djw

      I read somewhere that AM has long been suspected of creating a number of fake accounts for attractive women, and the actual number of paid subscribers was overwhelmingly male. This strikes me as entirely plausible, but I have no what, if any, evidence supports it.

  • Breadbaker

    I disagree with the “Josh Duggar exception to let’s ignore big privacy breaches because he’s a fucking hypocrite”. Of course, he’a a fucking hypocrite (even he admits it), but is there seriously someone for whom this (as opposed to fondling his sisters) is the thing that will change their mind on him?

    And doesn’t that just set us up for “oooh, I know the Chinese hacked the health records of every federal employee, but did you realize that Secretary X was taking drugs for Y?”

    • privacy breaches

      We need a new word for situations when people entrust their financial and private details to a company which then broadcasts them publicly.

      • Ahuitzotl

        privacy trousers? privacy sansculottes?

        • Lee Rudolph

          Privacy thongs: the smallest of slips leads to maximum exposure.

          • Manju

            Heh Heh

        • ema

          Privacy spielhosen!

        • Manju


    • ThrottleJockey

      Yeah, let’s not smugly pretend that we’re better than the guys that hacked all the Hollywood starlets for only being interested in Josh Duggar. Private information is private information. Josh Duggar is no more a ‘public citizen’ than are the LGM bloggers.

      • If you’ve put yourself on a popular reality TV show for your traditional marriage values and you’ve hobnobbed with leading Republicans because of it and you’ve used that public platform to oppose women having control over their bodies, you are far more a public citizen that the writers of this site.

        I mean, I know you support authoritarianism and all though.

        • Yeah, I was gobsmacked when I read that.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I understand why Aimai might use the word ‘authoritarian’ incorrectly, Erik, but I expect you of all people to understand the proper definition. How does this issue have to do with authoritarianism? I’m only aware of the Duggars at all because of this website and random magazine covers at the grocery store checkout line. I’ve never watched the show and from what I’ve heard I can’t imagine a family I’d have less in common with. So your use of the word is bizarre here. As the cool kids say, “The word does not mean what you think it means.”

            I could forgive the privacy issue–anyone who trusts the cloud to keep private information private is a fool–but the hypocrisy stinks to high heaven. This is what people mean when they say “both sides do it”.

        • willp

          Being a “public citizen” doesn’t disentitle someone to their privacy rights. The term is unworkably vague and even in cases where we are unquestionably dealing with “public citizens” (e.g. athletes, celebrities, journalists) there’s still a reasonable expectation of privacy.

          And yes, JD is obviously hypocritical and odious. But our individual privacy rights aren’t contingent on our public behaviour, thank god. This line of reasoning could allow hideous privacy breaches (‘does that left-wing celebrity invest their money ethically??’ ‘such and such pro-choice advocate didn’t believe their daughter should have an abortion!’).

          There’s enough to criticize about JD without breaching his privacy rights.

          • willp

            I’m also not sure about the political-public citizen angle. It’s unworkably vague to define who is sufficiently political. It’s not like there’s some clear division between political and non political acts.

            And even in cases where someone is clearly advancing a political cause as a public citizen (like JD), I don’t see how someone using their free speech rights to advance their views reduces their privacy expectation. Yes, JD in particular was advocating for policies that would reduce women’s freedoms, but it’s still a right of his to make that argument without fear of loosing his own privacy rights.

            MAYBE in cases with politicians there is some reduced expectation of privacy, but in those cases it would only be because there is a relationship of trust between the official and the electorate. Even then though I’m not sure it should extend to their personal life. In any case, JD has no particular duty to anyone to be consistent or non-hypocritical.

            • Richard Gadsden

              If it’s something that you hold people should not have a right of privacy over, then you shouldn’t be able to appeal to that right. That’s as far as I would go.

    • alex284

      OK, then don’t worry about hypocrisy. This is just “news.”

      If Secretary X was opposed to medications for Y but was herself taking them, then, yes, that’s news too. Just like it’s no one’s business where a public employee’s children go to school, but when Arne Duncan chooses to send his kids to private schools so that they’ll avoid all the policies he’s helped implement that destroyed public schools, then it’s news.

      And my guess is that there will be people who turn away from him for this who didn’t care about sexual assault, because people a shitty that way.

      For other people, the moral of the story will be to be cautious about authoritarians in the future. It’s something I’ve heard often from people who don’t really follow politics, that all those moralists are out doing everything they say not to do. Stories like these sustain that worldview.

    • djw

      And doesn’t that just set us up for “oooh, I know the Chinese hacked the health records of every federal employee, but did you realize that Secretary X was taking drugs for Y?”

      What’s the causal connection here? How on earth does one thing relate to the other? The “exception” merely refers to how we react to information, not any policy of countenancing privacy violations.

      I suspect I’m fairly typical in that I started out by saying to myself “this leak is a gross violation of privacy and I’m going to not intentionally seek out any knowledge, and take non-radical steps to avoid learning anything specific about it, because it’s not my business” and I’ve otherwise lived up to that. (I couldn’t name another person who’s been outed as an AM user.) But to not allow oneself a moment of schadenfreude over this hypocritical asshole is taking asceticism far too far.

  • Lee Rudolph

    did you realize that Secretary X was taking drugs for Y

    I can’t speak for Y, but personally I would rather continue to take my own drugs myself.

    Goddamn nanny state.

  • Camille

    This bodes ill for Hillary Clinton

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