Ashley Madison? Sign me up!

Kiss Date

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, H L Mencken famously said. It looks like you can double the truth of that the moment penises get involved.

According to Avid Life Media, the parent company of the recently hacked infidelity website Ashley Madison, hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for its services in the past week, despite the fact that the hack not only released details of millions of its adulterous clients, but had also apparently shown that most of the female users were fake.

The latter claim has since been amended – it looks as if there were more real women on there than first thought, though still outnumbered by bots that seem to have been specifically designed by the company to engage with the men and make it seem like the place was just one great welcoming vagina – but the new customers didn’t know that. For many thousands of people, the then current knowledge – that there were barely any women on the site and that it had all the security of a rotting hammock – was apparently nothing compared with the news that there was a site out there that offered the chance, however small and dangerous, of being brought into conjunction with new sets of genitalia.

This massive uptick in membership suggests that we should have turned to P T Barnum rather than Mencken – there really is no such thing as bad publicity. For every person who looked at the story and said to himself (going by even the revised figures it is evidently very rarely “herself” when it comes to anything Ashley Madison): “Dodged a bullet there, mate,” there were dozens more who said: “I had never realised that the internet could be pressed into service in this way. What a revelation. Sign me up. Literally, sign me up. With my real name and credit card details and everything.”

Is it a triumph of hope over (vicarious) experience? Or of the infinite corruptibility of man/men over everything else? Answers on postcards to the usual address, please, where they will be disposed of using rubber gloves and tongs.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Lucy Mangan, for The Guardian on Tuesday 1st September 2015 15.59 Europe/London

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