Patrice Riemens on Mon, 8 Dec 2008 15:49:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Lucy Kellaway (FT): When the going gets tough the tough go online...

And now for some light entertainement in these times of crisis...
Cheers & Enjoy!,
patrizio + Diiiinooos!
("it's the end of it in Bulawayo, it's the beginning of it in


Courtesy of the The Peninsula Online, Quattar's leading newspaper ;-)

When the going gets tough, the tough log in and play away
Web posted at: 12/8/2008 2:58:22

By Lucy Kellaway

Over the past month, I have picked up 247 men. Fast work in just four
weeks but I?ve been putting my back into it. During my sabbatical from the
Financial Times, I have obsessively e-mailed strangers on an adultery
website, thereby taking part in what I find is the hottest recessionary
activity in town.

Among my new boyfriends are a formerly powerful hedge fund manager, scores
of newly idle bankers, a few entrepreneurs, various company directors, a
well-known musician, some corporate lawyers, a couple of barristers and a
rather dishy builder. I doubt if this was what the FT had in mind when it
decided that journalists should be given a four-week break every four
years for self-development. Neither, come to that, was it what I had had
in mind when I embarked on my sabbatical: my intention was to write a

So when I first joined Illicit Encounters, the most upmarket of
extra-marital websites, it was for research on internet adultery for my
book. But, within the first half an hour of posting my details on the site
(under the pseudonym of Sophie Scribe), I had acquired 20 boyfriends and,
within an hour, I was hooked. Four weeks later, I have emerged, feeling
slightly soiled and more than slightly cross at the way that real life is
so much more exciting than the novel I?m writing. Illicit Encounters is a
Turkish bath of a place in which 230,000 mainly professional, married
people leer at each other through virtual steam searching for anyone who
might be a suitable lover.

While I was on the site, I noticed business seemed particularly brisk
among those citing financial services as their occupation. Over and over
again, I was approached by men using names such as ?Alpha123?, or
?Civilised1? or ?CityGent?, each telling the same story: I?m a successful
banker, now with time on my hands, looking for
excitement/love/romance/casual sex, etc.

Curiosity aroused, I contacted the site?s owners to find out what was
going on. They told me that, since September, the number of London-based
males in the financial sector registering had risen by nearly 300 percent.
It seems the colder the market for jobs, the hotter the market for
adultery. If the sheer numbers surprised me, the men themselves surprised
me even more. The ones I talked to weren?t lotharios, and didn?t seem
sleazy either. They were often adulterers for the first time and more the
balding-banker-next-door type than anything more alluring.

false names

For those readers who don?t already know from personal experience, I
should perhaps explain a little about how the site works. To maintain
secrecy, everyone uses false names and members release their pictures only
to other members they like the sound of. This presented a ticklish problem
for me, given the high density of FT readers who turn out to be online. At
the briefest glimpse of my picture, various of them fled in fright,
saying: ?Oh God, are you Lucy Kellaway?? As well as meeting people who
read the FT, I even came across one who used to write for it. This took me
into a whole new area of office etiquette: what is the correct way to
behave when you stumble on someone you know on an adultery website? I
daresay it happens more and more. Indeed, one result of my four-week
infiltration into the lives of adulterers is that I now suspect every man
of living a double life on Illicit Encounters.

Last week, I had lunch with John Quelch, professor of marketing at Harvard
Business School, and asked what he thought it all meant. Why is it that so
many senior business people are responding to recession with adultery? He
said that, in a recession, people wanted hugs. This stuck me as a pretty
feeble explanation. Surely there are easier ways of getting hugs than
putting one?s marriage on the line? Hugging one?s children or - if one is
desperate - even one?s spouse might seem easier and safer.

He said that this was just the point: that the risk was the lure. That
bankers are suffering from a risk deficit: their working lives have been
derisked compulsorily and this could be a way of compensating by adding
risk to their private lives.

If this is true, one wonders what the macro upshot will be. If there has
been a mass shift from taking risks in financial markets to taking risks
in the domestic market, will it mean mass domestic instability with
surging divorce rates and so on? The founders of the website like to argue
that, by providing a well-behaved marketplace for adultery, they are
actually creating domestic stability.

Seventy percent of Illicit Encounters? clients claim to be attracted to
adultery as an alternative to divorce, not as a precursor to it. This may
not be altogether laughable but it seems a little early to draw any
conclusion one way or another.

However, it?s not too early to draw three other conclusions from my month
on the site. The first is that people who are still in work seem to have
an inordinate amount of spare time from nine to five. Second is that
everyone lies: they understate their ages and overstate their
attractiveness, gym attendance, good humour and so on.

The last lesson is one we knew already: more men are interested in
adultery than women. The website tries to correct this by differential
pricing, charging men £119 a month while women go free. Yet even so, the
imbalance persists, and I now find my 247 suitors may not have been
entirely due to my own charms. I told a female friend about the site and
she signed up. Her boyfriend tally after just one week: 295.

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