Virtual infidelity has increased by almost 15% since the pandemic crisis hit the US. According to online cheating website Ashley Madison, new users have gone from an average of 15,000 per day to 17,000 during the shut down. Many of the new sign ups are people who are already having a physical affair who are looking for a way to continue the relationship while locked down with their spouse. 30% of women and 14% of men who recently signed up say they did it to have virtual sex with their affair partner. Other online apps like Illicit Encounters has seen a similar increase in users, with about half saying they were looking for new affairs.
Spikes in online cheating are stemming from more than just quarantine. 74% of men on one site claim “boredom” with their current partner was the driving force behind their extramarital affair. For others, being cooped up with their spouse has exposed or worsened problems that already existed. “This is not going to suddenly create better wives and husbands simply because they’re on forced lockdown,” says Paul Keable, Chief Strategy Officer at Ashley Madison.
Many hotels are still closed, and the pretense of working late, business dinners, company happy hours and work-related travel makes a good excuse for leaving the house still hard to come by. But for those determined to make their virtual affairs a reality, social distancing isn’t a consideration. The recent loosening of travel restrictions and reopening of work places is allowing some clandestine meetups. “Virtual relationships are all novelty and fantasy, which is great,” says one Ashley Madison user. “But at some point you want the real thing with face-to-face interaction.” She admits to meeting up with a new partner for sex in the park. Another user admits to arranging a meeting with his date in a fast food restaurant parking lot. “Former NFL cheerleader,” he added. “How can I pass?”