Ashley Madison Updates, with Additional Thoughts on Josh Duggar's Latest

[Content Note: Privacy violations; misogyny; homophobia; victim-blaming; sex abuse.]

There have been some updates over the last few days on the Ashley Madison hack and subsequent leak of users' information.

The first lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles by a man identified as John Doe, who is seeking class-action status so other users can join his suit:
The lawsuit accuses Ashley Madison and parent company Avid Life Media Inc, which is based in Toronto, of negligence and invasion of privacy, as well as causing emotional distress.

...The lawsuit claims that the data breach could have been prevented if the company had taken "necessary and reasonable precautions to protect its users' information, by, for example, encrypting the data."
Hard to argue with that.

As I mentioned last week, the hackers justified dumping the personal data online by saying that they were motivated by Ashley Madison's shady business practices, and that their clientele was not the primary target but is just collateral damage. Which is bullshit for a whole lotta reasons, not least of which is the fact that the leak has potentially "literally put people's lives at risk."
Though the vast majority of countries around the world have abolished laws against adultery over the past few decades — South Korea, for example, just repealed this law earlier this year — in a number of countries around the world, such as Taiwan, the Philippines and Pakistan, adultery remains illegal. It can even, in some places, be punishable by death, the Week reports.

...There's also the issue of gay users having their personal data released. Shortly after the Ashley Madison data was made public Tuesday, one Reddit user with the moniker ICouldBeStoned2Death turned to the subreddit /r/LegalAdvice because he is gay, Saudi Arabian, and the owner and operator of an Ashley Madison account.

"I am from Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality carries the death penalty," he writes. "I studied in [redacted] the last several years and used Ashley Madison during that time ... I am single; I used it because I am gay. Gay sex is punishable by death in my home country, so I wanted to keep my hookups extremely discreet. (AM promised that they had systems in place to ensure confidentiality.)"

In 79 countries, homosexual acts are illegal, according to Business Insider, with sentences ranging from life imprisonment to enforced psychiatric intervention. Homosexuality is even punishable by death, the Washington Post reports, in 10 countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Yemen, Nigeria, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Which certainly casts all those "users deserve whatever they get" rationalizations in an entirely different light. (Not that they were anything but indecent from the start.) And is to say nothing of the fact that, since Ashley Madison didn't require email verification, there are a number of people whose emails and/or other identifying information appear in the data dump because someone else used their info.

I am firmly against the hack and the release of the hacked info, and I am firmly against picking through the mass info dump in order to expose the people whose information was disclosed, so I have mixed feelings about addressing this next bit at all, even though it's hardly a secret by this point.

One of the people who were found to have an Ashley Madison account was Josh Duggar, the eldest of the Duggar sons who was recently obliged to disclose that he had sexually assaulted five girls, among whom were his sisters. Not only did Duggar admit to having accounts at Ashley Madison and being unfaithful to his wife, he also confessed to a porn addiction—although that bit was later edited out of his statement in which he called himself "the biggest hypocrite ever."

Further, the email address Duggar used in one of his Ashley Madison accounts was then found to have been used to set up a Facebook profile under the name "Joe Smithson," which he used to befriend mostly young women, including "a dancer at Sensations Gentleman's Club in Arkansas, a lingerie model, and a boudoir photographer."

The same address was used to set up an OKCupid dating profile, for which Duggar stole another man's image.

Duggar calls himself a hypocrite, which is accurate, but it seems to me that what's rather more crucial at the moment is not his hypocrisy, but what appears to be aggressive sexual predation and dysfunction, a compulsive prurience born at least in part of a lifetime of extreme sexual repression.

Being disallowed from being curious about sex, and exploratory of sexuality with consensual partners, rarely leads to a healthy sex life.

That's not to say that everyone who has the freedom to be curious and exploratory turns out to be a safe and functional sex partner, because we all know that isn't true, but repression demonstrably breeds, and disproportionately so, a particular kind of male predator who acts out in coercive and/or violent ways so as not to be exposed—and grooms their female victims so that victimization seems both normal and their own responsibility.

This should be manifestly obvious to conservative evangelical Christians by now, but here, for example, is a report on Josh Duggars' own parents, who have abetted his predation, expressing mystification about their son's latest disclosures:
"This wasn't something they ever imagined was possible," says the source. "They so strictly limit their exposure to these sorts of outside influences – from websites to even the sort of television they watch, if they turn on the TV at all – that they were absolutely baffled by how this could have been possible."
Josh Duggar has not turned into a predatory creep in spite of those limitations; he's turned into one (in part) because of them.

And just as when Duggar was found to have been molesting his sisters, he is not asked to be accountable for his actions. This time, of course, it's his wife's fault:
The source says that from their knowledge of Josh and Anna and the Duggar family, "no way is she leaving him" – adding that it would not come as a surprise if "on some level" Anna tries to "absorb some of the blame."

"Maybe not publicly, ever, but privately, there will be some suggestion of whether or not she should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him," says the source.

"She is fully and permanently committed to her marriage and her children. And she'll have the support of Jim Bob and Michelle and everyone else in their circle in terms of staying with him and making this work," continues the source. "Divorce is not even something that will be discussed."
This is, unfortunately, something that seems to have been confirmed by Anna's own brother, who has reportedly offered Anna and her children a way out, but has been rebuffed. (Of course, I have no idea what her relationship with her brother is and whether that would be a frying pan to the fire situation.)


Josh Duggar is but one member of Ashley Madison, hardly representative of the whole. People used the site for all sorts of different reasons. There are among the many users people who were simply curious, and never had affairs at all. There are just fucking assholes who get off on high-risk cheating (and who don't give a fuck what diseases they may bring home to an unsuspecting partner).

There are also, for instance, couples, or half of couples, who have open relationships and clearly stated and agreed-upon guidelines for extramarital affairs, who may have wanted to be discreet for professional reasons, or just found the site an easy way to meet people who were open to sexual liaisons with married people. But those folks are, naturally, a minority.

Would that they weren't. It seems like an awful lot of us, even if we didn't have the oppressively cloistered upbringing of a Duggar, could sure use a little more honesty around and about sexual exploration. With our partners, sure, but also culturally. Monogamy doesn't work for everyone, and that's okay.

Maybe if we could talk about that openly a little (a lot) more, people who agreed would be more likely to find each other, rather than to hide themselves.

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