Ottawa is the most “cheater-friendly” city in Canada, according to an infidelity website that allows would-be adulterers to hook up.
According to figured collected by AshleyMadison.com, which has 37,800 members in Ottawa and the surrounding area, 3.87 per cent of residents in the capital area have accessed the website’s services at least once.
AshleyMadison.com founder and CEO Noel Biderman is not surprised Ottawa topped the list. It makes sense that Ottawa would have the highest per capita users, he says.
“Compared to the rest of Canada, I don’t know that Ottawa is boring. It’s a place for international people to come and go. There have even been spy scandals.”
The website, launched in February 2002, now has 13 million members in 17 countries, including 1.2 million in Canada. Using data from third-party providers, AshleyMadison has tracked per capita use in the U.S. Since 2009. Washington D.C. has always been the top U.S. market.
“They are a million miles ahead of anyone else,” says Biderman, who believes that government cities like Ottawa and Washington, with their populations of high-powered, cosmopolitan and educated people, may have a higher demographic potential for adultery.
Involvement in politics seems to fuel adultery. “They’re risk-takers. Risk-takers are more predisposed to have affairs.”
And women with higher levels of education may also be more likely to be interested in a brief liaison. Between 36 and 39 per cent of users are women, says Biderman.
“Men have always had cathartic outlets — massage parlours, strip clubs. Women understand that the affair with your best friend’s husband or that guy at work is a bad idea. This is another option. It’s like a nightclub that had ladies’ night.”
Other senior staff at the AshleyMedison.com predicted Montreal or Vancouver would have the highest concentration of users. Biderman himself bet on Toronto. Although Toronto is ninth on the list in Canada, it does not have significantly lower per-capita adultery than Ottawa, he says.
The top 10 Canadian cities for cheating, according to AshleyMadison.com:
■ Ottawa — 3.87 per cent
■ Saskatoon — 3.69 per cent
■ Calgary — 3.61 per cent
■ Edmonton — 3.55 per cent
■ London — 3.52 per cent
■ Brampton — 3.48 per cent
■ Winnipeg — 3.44 per cent
■ Hamilton — 3.37 per cent
■ Toronto — 3.35 per cent
■ Vancouver — 2.97 per cent
Ottawa sex therapist Sue McGarvie knows both men and women in the area who use infidelity websites, including a number of recently-separated women.
“They don’t want to be in a relationship. They want inconsequential sex.”
McGarvie points out that Ottawa is a city with a European sensibility and a French influence. It has three swingers’ clubs.
“Go to a downtown hotel and sit at the bar and you’ll see business people who are waiting for a blind date,” she says.
“I’m seeing a lot of people who are interested in discretion. People are less concerned with the morality of it and they want to get their needs met.”
For some people who cheat, a discreet affair is better than a divorce, which involves dividing assets and disruption for children, says McGarvie. Some have a spouse with a chronic illness or have mismatched libidos. Others are not getting any attention from their spouse, or they work too much and rarely see each other.
“People prefer an affair to ending a marriage. For women, it’s not necessarily the sex. It’s the flirting, the attention,” says McGarvie, whose radio show was once sponsored by AshleyMadison.com and looked into how the website’s business model worked. (Men who join must buy credits to contact women who are interested in cheating.)
“I’m not arguing the mortality of it. Few people get 100 per cent of what they’re looking for in a marriage. A lot of people are well-matched, buy they are not well-matched sexually.”
McGarvie also sees another potential reason why the infidelity website is so popular in Ontario — AshleyMadison.com was founded in Toronto, but also marketed heavily in Ottawa.
Biderman was surprised Saskatoon beat out the typically high-ranking cities of Calgary and Edmonton as the city with the second-highest per capita cheaters.
“We find our strong membership in the west in keeping with the trend of people with conservative values participating in what is considered ‘deviant’ societal behaviour,” he says.
“But Saskatoon? What is going on in Saskatoon?”
Biderman believes that “boom” cities with a transient population are more likely to be places for affairs. In the U.S., Las Vegas is one of the top markets for AshleyMadison.com.
“The families may live in other cities. It may feed the opportunity for adulterous affairs.”
Biderman has also been surprised by the propensity of people in cities like Cincinnati and Phoenix to sign up. “What is it about the water in Cincinnati?”