Pitchforks & Puritanism

No matter what hypocrites get exposed (Josh Duggar, & there will no doubt be others from the “family values” crowd), I just can’t enjoy the mass doxing that is the Ashley Madison hacking.

Maybe I work too much with couples in long term relationships who are trying to work out all kinds of things in the face of crossdressing and transition and identity and I know how complex and conflicting decisions made within a long term relationship can be.

Maybe it’s because when I read this advice I notice an incredible lack of empathy for a man who is mourning someone he loved, and who he obviously loved deeply.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had to stand down criticism and ostracism for becoming non monogamous myself. Maybe it’s because as someone who’s been practicing ethical non monogamy for a few years now, I’m amazed at how difficult it is for people to make a distinction between cheating and becoming non monogamous with the full consent and acceptance of your spouse. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the wrong end of that puritanical glee that’s going around.

Maybe it’s because of the Brave New World this mass doxing implies.

Maybe it’s because men tell me about their lives, and like Rachel Kramer Bussell, I never met a married guy on Ashley Madison or OK Cupid who didn’t make me sad (but not so sad I had anything to do with them). I met men married to lesbians who had a great life and great marriage but no sex. I met men who were trying to keep it together for the children. I met men who had made their kids their top priority post divorce who didn’t want another relationship, who were broken and exhausted by a previous one.  I met closeted lesbians married to men who couldn’t come out because of work but wanted a woman in their life who didn’t require a relationship.

I often wondered if, as a culture, we should have a day when people didn’t have to honor their commitments and could, instead, find some measure of what they were seeking, a kind of bacchanal escape valve. I’ve often wondered if we didn’t spend so much time judging other people if we might try to understand the kinds of pain that people try to salve with sex.

So I can’t share the popcorn or the schadenfreude, because in not so long marriages will be ending because of this, and maybe a lot of those marriages were ones that should have ended long ago. But others would have gone unharmed by a spouse’s ignorance, as Dan Savage points out. I just hope spouses who suspect their partners remember a few things: (1) if your spouse isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, (2) that just because s/he is, doesn’t mean it did, and (3) make sure that you really really really want to know. What I hope, instead of this sleuthing, is that the people who did sign up admit to it so that they might start to have a conversation about what it was they were missing, about what they hoped to gain, and that maybe, just maybe, they might figure out a sane way to call it quits or to rebuild.

More soon. Right now, though, I’m feeling a little heartbroken by humanity and by the glee other people are taking in others’ misfortune. If this mass doxing only effected the raging hypocrites out there, it would be one thing, but it won’t. Even if it does expose the dogs and serial cheaters, it’s going to cause so much hurt in so many ways for so many people doing their imperfect best to be happy

4 Replies to “Pitchforks & Puritanism”

  1. This sort of mass “outing” of people is wrong. Again, my perspective comes largely from my long experience as a gay activist. My view was then, and remains, that it is OK to out people who are being hypocritical AND harming many other people (like a closeted gay politician who promotes anti-gay laws), but it is not OK otherwise. The former is merely self-defense and pragmatic politics. The latter is neither necessary nor desirable. It would be making moral judgments on other people, and then acting on them, and I at least am very reluctant to do that. It would be heading in a dangerous direction. “Live and let live” is preferable.

    Outing Mr. Duggar as an adulterer seems to me to fall in the first category, and to be justifiable.

    As regards monogamy, or not, I think that every couple needs to figure this out for themselves, in their own particular circumstances. There is too much moralizing here (usually the holier-than-thou kind of moralizing) and not enough consideration of what real people and the real world are actually like. Reay – my partner of 32 years (now my husband) – and I have had a relationship that has been, after the first couple of years, monogamous except for one period when monogamy was not sensible. That period was when I was posted on business to London for 9 months, he could not accompany me, and we could see each other only occasionally. I was in my early 30s at the time, and sex was important to me, so from time to time I used to visit a high class male escort who I already knew. It wasn’t a secret. Reay knew what was going on, and he didn’t mind. He didn’t feel the need to do likewise himself.

    Somewhat later I life I was posted to the Middle East, this time for two and a half years, and again Reay could not accompany me. I told him explicitly that if he wanted to find a nice escort while I was away I didn’t mind. In fact he didn’t do so, but I wouldn’t have minded if he had done. (The particular Middle Eastern country I was in gave me no options at all, so I had to remain celibate, though by that age it was less of a problem.)

    We are still together and we are very happy. Common sense gets you a lot further than silly moralizing.

  2. Not to mention the approximately 1200 users with .sa email addresses. That’s Saudi Arabia. Many those users are gay men forced into het marriages by their country’s repressive culture, looking for a chance at real intimacy. Hopefully most of them were able to flee the country after the news of the initial leak broke: anyone who’s left could be facing death by stoning.

  3. Oh I could not agree more. Enough with the fucking pitchforks and scarlet letters already.

    Honestly I can’t even motivate myself to make an exception for an excrescence like Duggar. Yes, Hell’s fires burn hottest for hypocrites… but he’ll find that out soon enough.

    I don’t condone cheating (consensual non monogamy/monandry of course is NOT cheating), but nor do I approve of us getting our puritanical rocks off by publicly naming and shaming those who engage in an act that is astoundingly common. And a not surprising response to the many awful situations in which people find themselves bound into a monogamy/monandry that just does not make sense.

  4. Another more sinister aspect of this is the story of an Iranian man who is gay and used the AM website to find discreet partners in a culture where consequences go way beyond some Puritanical cuckolding and glee and become a matter of life and death.

    Last heard, he was seeking asylum in the U.S. and as far away from the Muslim world as possible.

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