Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation

A range of implications associated with the Ashley Madison hacking scandal have emerged over the weekend after hackers released private details identifying clients of the “cheating” website late last week. Duplicitous spouses have been outed, celebrity clients identified and pursued, extortion and blackmail attempted, law suits initiated and divorce lawyers instructed.

Some time ago researchers exploring privacy with respect to social networking sites identified the possibility of hacking, exposure of private data, and the consequences of a damaged reputation following the public exposure of stigmatised behaviours. The Ashley Madison scandal has transformed what was theoretically possible into global reality on a grand scale.

Despite appearances to the contrary in some popular culture and media “having an affair” is a stigmatised behaviour. Across the globe there is evidence of strongly disapproving attitudes towards extra-marital sex, or having a sexual liaison with someone outside of a committed relationship. Healthy long-term sexual relationships have been shown to have a number of well-understood characteristics including caring for the well-being of the partner, respect and admiration, sexual desire and intimacy, a commitment to being together, and yes – expectations of exclusivity.

Last year, findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships showed that most men (96%) and women (97%) in a committed relationship said that they expected that neither they nor their partners would have sex with anyone else. However, far fewer people had actually discussed these expectations explicitly with their partner – just over half the men and two-thirds of the women. Rather, they likely assumed that sexual fidelity was an implicit expectation of a long-term relationship, or relied on their spouse taking seriously their marriage vow to forsake all others.

In all the furore surrounding the Ashley Madison hacking scandal the impact on partners has not been a focus of discussion. The invisible partners of Ashley Madison clients may be confronting the breach of their trust in their assumed or explicit expectations of faithfulness for the first time. Those who are unaffected by the hacking of personal details can afford a wry smile or flippant comment about just desserts. But the shock and distress is palpable for trusting partners who have discovered that their previously unquestioned faith in their loved one’s fidelity is misplaced.

We certainly do well to remember that sex does not equal love, and that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to relationships. Intimate partnerships are often difficult to negotiate at the best of times, in private, and without the spectre of infidelity. The challenge is magnified for partners confronting the implications of a breach of trust played out in the public eye – and they deserve our compassion.


Jayne Lucke is the Director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. She receives funding from the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. She has served as a Director of Family Planning Queensland and been Chief Investigator on an ARC Linkage Grant that involves cash and in-kind support from Family Planning New South Wales and Bayer Australia. The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society receives funding from diverse sources listed in the annual report available from the website: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/trust-is-the-most-tragic-casualty-of-the-ashley-madison-hacking-scandal-45319

Today, Australia's Kyoto climate targets end and our Paris cop-out begins. That's nothing to be proud of, Mr Taylor


The kids are alright: young adult post-disaster novels can teach us about trauma and survival


6 Tips to Reduce Hot Water Costs


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

FORDHAM: Thank you very much for talking to us. I know it's a difficult day for all of those Qantas workers. Look, they want to know in the short term, are you going to extend JobKeeper?   PRI...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison interview with Neil Mitchell

NEIL MITCHELL: Prime minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, how are you?   MICHELL: I’m okay, a bit to get to I apologise, we haven't spoken for a while and I want to get t...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham

PRIME MINISTER: I've always found that this issue on funerals has been the hardest decision that was taken and the most heartbreaking and of all the letters and, you know, there's been over 100...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

SEO In A Time of COVID-19: A Life-Saver

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a lot of uncertainty for everyone across the world. It has had one of the most devastating impacts on the day-to-day lives of many including business o...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

5 Ways Risk Management Software Can Help Your Business

No business is averse to risks. Nobody can predict the future or even plan what direction a business is going to take with 100% accuracy. For this reason, to avoid issues or minimise risks, some for...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Ways To Deal With Unemployment and Get Back Into the Workforce

Being unemployed has a number of challenges and they’re not all financial. It can affect you psychologically and sometimes it can be difficult to dig your way out of a rut when you don’t have a job ...

News Company - avatar News Company

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion