Hi guys. Yes, you six guys from tn.gov who signed up for Ashley Madison with your work email, the seven guys who work for the city of Memphis, the eight guys who work for the city of Nashville, the two Chattanooga city workers, the rumored political operatives and ex-political operatives — I am talking specifically to you, but also, in general, to all men who might find this helpful.
First, if you're going to cheat on your spouse, get an email that is something other than email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Second, don't cheat on your wives, you dickbags. If you want some strange, tell your wife you want some strange. Give her the opportunity to divorce you before you bring home something she can't live with (or, hell, maybe she'll be cool with it; stranger things have happened).
But here's what I really want to say to you guys: Women are people. For thousands of years, men have tried to insist that women were less than whole people, that our only jobs were to be pretty, baby-making machines that will cook and clean for you. And for thousands of years, we have disappointed you by failing to be only those things.
There's no magic place you can go — not Russia, not Asia, not Ashley Madison — where you can open your wallet, choose all the characteristics you want in a sentient sex toy and come up with a woman who will actually care about you. You can't buy love and affection. You can only buy the appearance of love and affection.
Also, women, by and large, are terrified of being raped. So, and again, I'm speaking generally here, we're not going to hang out at some secret place no one knows we are at and hook up with men we don't know, especially men who have already indicated by their willingness to hang out on a cheaters' website that they don't care that much about treating women well.
If you took even five seconds to think about Ashley Madison from the perspective of the women you were trying to meet on that site, you'd realize that it's very unlikely that actual women would hang out on that site waiting for the likes of you.
And, lo and behold, most of you were not interacting with actual women. According to a Gizmodo analysis of the personal data the hackers released, almost none of the women on the site were real. Overall, the picture is grim indeed. Out of 5.5 million female accounts, roughly zero percent had ever shown any kind of activity at all, after the day they were created.
The men's accounts tell a story of lively engagement with the site, with over 20 million men hopefully looking at their inboxes, and over 10 million of them initiating chats. The women's accounts show such little activity that they might as well not be there.
I find this equal measures sad, distressing, and hilarious. Looking for women in a space you should have known — if you actually thought about things from the perspective of women — was probably very unlikely to have a lot of women in it.
I have heard the names of somewhat prominent Tennesseans with Ashley Madison accounts and have checked to see that, yes, indeed, their email addresses do match up to ones with accounts. I didn't go wading in the raw data to see if those email addresses actually linked up with those Tennesseans' home addresses, because, in truth, whether you specifically cheated on your partner or tried to is not the public's business.
But I, and other women, have to live with you in this society. We have to be real, ordinary, flawed people in a society where you'd so rather have the fantasy that you don't even realize that no women are there in your fantasy land. I have to assume that real women are invisible to you, if you don't even notice our absence. And that does affect me.
So, dear Ashley Madison users, I ask you for this one favor: Practice seeing us as real women. The next time you're out and you notice a woman, get beyond "Sure, I'd nail her/Ugh, no" and consider the world from her perspective.
I'd like you to do this, because I think you'd be better off with a little more empathy toward women, but you, you poor fools, should do it if only so that you can be smarter than to try to meet women on a website few women actually use.
Betsy Phillips is a columnist for the Nashville Scene, where a longer version of this essay first appeared.