In 1965 Mike Royko took a look at Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and came to a surprising conclusion.
not sure that Hefner is a playboy," the great columnist wrote in the
Chicago Daily News. "He seems to be as middle class as the people he
criticizes in his giggle-giggle philosophy."
Real playboys, Royko
said, "have sensational affairs with famous actresses, singers and
countesses." They gamble at casinos, sail yachts, drive race cars. "Rome
on Monday. Paris on Wednesday, Saturday night in New York, and
breakfast in Rio."
Then there's Hefner who, if you puff away the
PR smoke, is a sedentary Midwestern guy married to his job who wants
nothing more than to hang around his own living room night after night,
guzzling Pepsi and listening to the stereo.
"Except for the fact
that it is bigger and all paid for, he's put together an overgrown
split-level, right out of a "better homes" magazine," Royko wrote.
"Hefner's kingdom is the same kingdom the 5:15 suburban commuter is
rushing home to. Item by item, it's middle-class, sub-development
In other words, don't let the sexy image deceive you.
advice when considering Ashley Madison—to bring those who are just
joining us up to speed—the online dating service for married people that
was hacked last month, with names, emails, credit card numbers and
sexual fantasies of its 37 million members snagged by a group outraged
by Ashley Madison's business model. Earlier this week, the hacked
details were posted on the notorious Dark Web, the hard-to-access land
of bulk narcotics and illegal drug deals. Technically minded souls have
already re-posted the data where suspicious spouses can check if their
honey had been trolling for a special pal.
The media of
course eats this up. The would-be-Lothario humiliated is the oldest
trope in literature, the stuff of countless Elizabethan dramas. The
Washington Post speculated that "millions of users held their breaths"
after the data theft was revealed.
Maybe. My guess is those
members don't have much bad behavior to worry about coming to light. As we learn about Ashley
Madison, the more we'll find that, rather than some online game of musical
beds, its clientele consists of a tiny portion of swinging adulterers who actually hook up
with each other, and then a vast population of duped sad sacks and
desperate house fraus ponying up their credit cards in pursuit of some
unattainable dream. An image as romantic as a city laundromat at 10 p.m.
on a Tuesday night.
Give Ashley Madison credit for monetizing
married ennui. The most incredible thing about that membership list is
its size: 37 million. Quite a lot. That's about ... 16 percent of the
adult population of the United States. Though it turns out Ashley
Madison also has a big international membership (some of whom, located
in repressive countries that frown on this kind of thing, now have their
lives put in peril by this breach. It's all good fun until somebody
The details of how Ashley Madison works are
fairly jaw dropping. It's basically a text service. Women can send
messages for free to men—who make up 70 percent of members— while the
men must pay to read them and pay to reply. The web site—and this
is astounding—generates fictional women who send bogus messages to men
to gull them into participating.
The closest thing to Ashley
Madison, in my view, is the lottery, where most pay for a dream that
comes true only for a very few. Though I might be showing my age. Ashley
Madison could be seen as a slightly raunchier subbasement of online
dating which, if you haven't been paying attention, has morphed into a
billion dollar industry. Match.com is 20 years old; 20 percent of young
adults have dated somebody they met online, and some significant number
of people who get married —studies range from 5 to 30 percent—are
wedding people they met online. The taint of desperation that used to
hang over online dating is pretty much gone.
Not so for Ashley
Madison. The secrecy and attraction implicit in its logo—a pretty woman
holding her finger to her red, red lips in a "shhhh" gesture—is belied
by this hack. Though 80 percent of Americans think that infidelity is
"always wrong," we shouldn't take too much pleasure in Ashley Madison's
secrets spilling out, because next it could be us, our bank, our
hospital, our email, our secrets. Let he who is without something to
hide cast the first stone.