Website to export French-style adultery to 'puritan' US
Popular French website serving as an extramarital dating platform will launch in the United States. Founder Teddy Truchot is confident of success, but are the puritans open to experiment?
Paris -- A young Frenchman is to launch his extramarital dating website in the "puritan" United States, selling the idea that adultery is no longer what it used to be, and could in fact save your marriage.
The clash of national stereotypes will see "French touch" Gleeden.com vaunt its women-friendly credentials over the likes of brasher and more well-established North American adulterers' site AshleyMadison.com.
Teddy Truchot, 27, an engineer by training, launched his site in France in 2009 after polls showed that fully one-third of people on dating sites claimed to be single but were in fact already in a relationship.
Today his iniquitous forum has over half-a-million members, mainly in Europe, of which almost 250,000 are in France, a country with an historic reputation for infidelity, but by no means an extramarital monopoly.
Its success is a sign of the changing mores of our times, Truchot says, empowering financially emancipated women who are less afraid of the potential repercussions of seeking a bit on the side.
A screenshot from Gleeden.com
"The French love infidelity. Even if they don't practise it, they're very good spectators," Truchot told AFP by telephone from Los Angeles, where he is preparing to launch the US site in February. "The need itself is the same in France, Italy or the US," he said.
The site's success, including its attraction for women, comes from French notions of seduction, with a quarter of women going there for nothing more than flirtation, says Truchot.
"Some women just need to feel seduced, to read a little message that says, 'you look pretty in this photo', they like to hear that because they don't hear it from their husbands anymore," Truchot said.
The site pitches itself at women, whose participation is described as "exploding", stressing the "fun and security" of "the most intransigent" 24/7 real time moderation.
Not surprisingly, in a country where an overnight bag is known as a "baise-en-ville" (sex away from home), Truchot doesn't think adultery is necessarily bad.
"Life is stressful, a relationship can become routine, a committed relationship can be scary, for a man or a woman, so infidelity isn't as bad as all that," he said. A Gleeden-sponsored opinion poll by IPSOS seems to back this up.
Fully 14 percent of Frenchmen do not consider a one-night stand infidelity, nor do seven percent of Frenchwomen, while 22 percent of the French think that infidelity can save a relationship as it "gives moments of freedom".
Chantal, 32, a mother-of-three who married in 1999, found moments with a stranger after signing up with Gleeden "because I was curious," she told AFP. "My husband is away a lot, so am I, we have children, we bump into each other, then there was a moment when there was no excitement, we saw each other less, it became a bit like the daily grind."
France, Paris : This picture taken on 27 January 2010 in Paris shows the internet homepage of the extramarital dating website Gleeden
"Then I met this person, it allowed me to get out of the daily grind, so when I went home I was in a different mood, but perhaps it strengthened our relationship as a couple. This allows me to have something on the side, an outlet, something for myself. Some women do a lot of shopping. Not me."
While adultery-advocating websites in the US have had problems finding advertising space for their "immoral product", psychologists and counsellors stress that responsibility ultimately lies with the individual.
"It's about free will," said Chantal. "There's everything on the Internet, but just because there are porn sites it doesn't mean that young people are pushed towards being porn actors or actresses later in life."
Benedicte Maufrais of French marriage guidance association ANCCEF says that the site cannot itself be blamed for pushing people towards infidelity and that if you sign up, it means there's already a problem.
"People look somewhere else because there's something missing in their relationship," she told AFP. "Some people might spend all their time playing golf as a way of dealing with a relationship, because it's too hard at home."
Signing up "can let people realise that their relationship is at stake and then in the end they don't want to go through with it but end up refocusing on their relationship. But that's not going to work every time."
Serge Tisseron, a specialist on the psychological impact of web encounters and videogames, describes the Internet as "an excellent accelerator of idiosyncrasies."
"It's a space where everyone can do what they want. Those who want to dream more will dream more, those who want to consume more will consume more and those who want to condemn more can condemn more."
Tisseron says that our morals are indeed changing, with couples increasingly opting for civil partnerships rather than marriage so "there's no longer adultery."
"People in civil partnerships no longer promise each other fidelity, so today you can have a shared life, the fiscal and matrimonial advantages but without having promised an exclusive sexual relationship."
Truchot is optimistic about takeup in the United States, where the site hopes to distinguish itself from the competition as a community portal for adulterers, with answers to marital, sexual, legal and sociological questions.
"The US is a territory that is very puritan, but I think we'll have a certain success over there," said Truchot, who declines to discuss how much money the site makes.
Gleeden.com small print advises that the service is not presently offered in Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan or Oklahoma, states where adultery is still a felony, a hangover from the US' puritan origins.
But Truchot is not worried: "Our lawyers have given us the green light."
Charles Onians / AFP / Expatica