No love for SecondLove.nl

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By Bala Chambers, Cata Radu, Martina LosiMasha Tsnompilantze

“Sexgod666” is his nickname. He describes himself as a 45-year-old male, standing almost two meters tall, from Overijssel, a province in the Netherlands: ‘Hello ladies! I am looking for a nice woman who, like me, wants to experience tension and lust’. On any ordinary dating website, this statement would raise eyebrows. But SecondLove.nl is not just any dating platform.

SecondLove.nl is a portal for men and women who are married or in serious relationships, who want to have sex with other partners. It openly promotes its role in advertisements with striking slogans like ‘Flirting is not only for singles.’ It describes itself as ‘a dating site for men and women who seek to have an exciting affair or adventure’. This online opportunity for real life cheating has proved to be a successful business model – even while stirring controversy in Dutch society.

You might think it is impossible to shock a society that has recognized prostitution as a legal profession since 1988. But perhaps, adultery or cheating on your life partner is still a step too far, even for the Dutch. And yet, SecondLove.nl is thriving against all opposition.

The anti – SecondLove campaign

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adultery as ‘sex between a married person and someone who is not that person’s wife or husband.’ Writing in Psychology Today, Michael W. Austin, a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, discusses why this is a problem. ‘Adultery involves breaking one of the most serious promises we make. Spouses have made a promise to have an exclusive relationship with one another, which includes abstaining from having sex with other people. When this promise is broken, it is painful’

Others emphasize the pain that many children suffer when their parents divorce, often due to marital infidelity. Bolstered by these arguments, opponents of cheating here in the Netherlands have started a small crusade. Heading the battle is Kees van der Staaij, leader of the orthodox Christian Reformed Political Party (SGP).

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“I consider this website to be truly harmful, both for relationships and for our society,” Van der Staaij told The Spoke. “My party disapproves of the goal of Second Love, which is to facilitate adultery, as well as the fact that adultery is openly advertised and encouraged,” he said.

His party has conducted several multimedia campaigns against the site, raising highway billboards and buying political advertising space on TV and online. It was an expensive campaign.“Of course, this required thousands of euros,” Van der Staaij admits. The actual amount spent ran in the tens of thousands. The SGP leader was quoted by Reuters saying that the 150,000 euros required for the campaign would be financed through crowd funding.

The big money-raising and consciousness-raising effort are all about protecting families, says Van der Staaij. “Families are directly affected. I am talking about the husbands, wives, and children who are betrayed or abandoned as a result of someone’s appetite for another ‘love’. There is a lot of brokenness within our families, and websites like SecondLove contribute to this.”

SGP falls short

The SGP, in cooperation with its youth wing SGP Jongeren, fought to get SecondLove commercials off television, or at least to keep them off  TV screens until 9 p.m. They raised the issue in parliament but gained no support. They petitioned the Dutch Advertising Code Committee, which has the authority to remove commercials from television, for a ban.

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Arguing before the Committee, SGP insisted SecondLove’s commercials should be banned under Article 1 of the Advertising Code which states: “An advertisement shall conform to the law, the truth and the requirements of good taste and decency. An advertisement should not contravene the public interest, public order or morality.” SGP also argued that the ads contravene article 1:81 of the Dutch Civil Code: “promoting adultery should not be a source of income”.

The Advertising Code Committee refused to remove the advertisement, Committee spokesperson Prisca Ancion-Kors told The Spoke. Moreover, “It is a personal matter, not something that can be regulated by law or banned. Moral issues are difficult to handle. If people want to cheat they will. We cannot prevent them,” she added.

In reaction, SGP leader Van der Staaij said “we believe it should not be considered ‘normal’ to advocate a ‘second love.’ Seventy-thousand children each year suffer as their parents get divorced. Websites like SecondLove facilitate disloyalty and are likely to cause a further increase in divorce rates. Broken hearts and broken families are not normal.” For the SGP leader, it is not a game. However, for the creator of SecondLove.nl, Erik Drost, it is.

The users multiplied after the anti – SecondLove campaigns

“The funny thing is that sometime before the complaints we had already decided to stop airing before 9 p.m. as it was too expensive”,  Drost told The Spoke.  He took his time explaining why he created the site,  and how it has evolved.

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The idea came to him in 1999, while he was in a relationship that wasn’t going that well. He was “looking around” for thrills, then tried to find some through the Internet. “SecondLove is for someone who is in a relationship which ended up boring. It is for those people looking for excitement and some extra things to live for”, said Drost.

The creator said SecondLove’s target group is users older than 35 years, although users are welcome to join from 25 up. Most of the users on this paid site are between 40 and 50 years old, with 60 percent of them being men.

The political campaigns against SecondLove have helped the business a lot. According to Drost, they “increased the number of users on the website by multiplying them by ten times in the last three years. The criticism just made us bigger and bigger. 86% of Dutch people know about us thanks to the SGP”. Similarweb.com, an online analysis tool, estimates that SecondLove had over 700,000 visits between April and September 2016.

The studies and statistics on people affected by adultery and divorce do not impress Drost. “I don’t think that the website causes any harm. When you have a happy marriage or relationship you don’t look for something else. Some people stay together for 40 years, but others don’t. That doesn’t always mean that they are looking for another partner. In fact, 65% percent of our users don’t even meet someone, they just get a wink or a nice message from someone. It’s not fair to say that the website is harmful to relationships and marriage because it’s simply not true,” he commented.

Every new SecondLove.nl user has to pay 74.90 euros to join the website. The site promotes an offer for 37.45 euros per month, but users find out after just one click that it is only valid if they opt to pay for two months. After paying, users can enrich their dating profiles with photos, check out other user profiles, send and receive messages.

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Opinion in Groningen is divided

In October 2016, The Spoke conducted a survey to assess the opinions of people in Groningen regarding SecondLove. We posed questions such as “do you know the website SecondLove?” and “what is your opinion about this website and the service it enables?” to a wide range of locals, aged 18 to 67. Fifty-seven respondents said they knew of the website’s existence.

Of those who knew of SecondLove, 42% reported an unfavorable opinion about the website, and many were willing to express their opinions. “People who are married or are in a relationship should not use dating websites” and “the website should not exist because it enables and promotes cheating,” they said. Some interviewees expressed their belief that the website should be closed down.

A smaller number of respondents, 35% of the interviewees, did not express any personal opinion about SecondLove, while 23% reported a favorable opinion on the website. In a typical response, one person said: “It’s not for me, but if someone wants to use it why not?” One interviewee said that even people in a committed relationship should be allowed to use it, as long as that person’s partner knew about it.

The 57 respondents interviewed were selected randomly, with respect to the gender balance between males and females. Only adults who knew about the website have been interviewed.

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The users of SecondLove

On their profiles, the users describe themselves and list their preferences to attract new partners. A man calling himself Jouwflirt is 58 years old and a striking gentleman looking for the sweetest mistress. I wish you to be faithful in unfaithfulness.’ Some members are strikingly different from the rest. ‘Me and my husband would like to get in touch with another couple and have an adventure. I am Asian and my husband is Dutch. We are sporty and healthy,’ writes the 35-year-old Jane2016 from Flevoland. Another, Murblom43, writes ‘I am a sporty man who loves cycling, fitness, and puzzles (including jigsaw puzzles), looking for cuddling and sex.’ Murblom43 is a 73-year-old man from the northern Dutch province of Friesland.

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One of the users The Spoke met during its survey in Groningen argued that the website is not very useful. “I’m very disappointed with the women on SecondLove. There aren’t many of them and they are mostly crazy. All they do is hunting for money and dinners at expensive restaurants. I went out with three women and, after the first date and me spending a whole bunch of money, they just disappeared. The website is also pretty expensive. I guess I just need to get lucky, I still have one month, will keep trying,” said 36-year-old Yoran.

Another SecondLove.nl user argued that he’s in an unsatisfying marriage that he doesn’t want to end. “My wife is five years older and sex is not as good as it used to be,” said Stijn, a 47-year-old man from Groningen. “I don’t want to get a divorce. This is a mess. We have three children and we don’t want them to know, but my wife knows everything. I think it was hard for her when she found out, but now she is used to it. She prefers these kinds of affairs instead of being emotionally tied to someone. It’s just sex.”

 Online Versus Offline Infidelity

There are ongoing discussions among researchers whether the advent of online dating has increased the infidelity rates. Cooper, Morahan et al. in their research around Internet infidelity came up with the “Triple A Engine”, which distinguishes Internet infidelity from the traditional. First of all, it is the “accessibility” provided. Having access to these platforms makes it easier to engage in infidelity. Moreover, it is “affordable.” Usually, there is a small price a user needs to pay to access these websites. Another important aspect is the anonymity it provides, which makes these platforms attractive for potential cheaters. The Internet allows people to hide their identity and to masquerade as someone else.

“My guess is that new technologies increased infidelity because there are many people who have a yearning for sex outside their relationship, but wouldn’t have the slightest idea about how to do it safely,” said Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington. He believes people are drawn to such sites for many reasons. Some are looking for sex because they are in sexless marriages, others are “stimulation junkies” who cannot be satisfied with sex with only one person and some of them want to “shake up their lives,” he added.

Others see less stark a difference between internet-based cheating and finding an extramarital partner in the real world.

“People who use the internet to find sexual partners are similar to those who are actively dating in the offline world. Such websites are just another platform for people to do what they would also do in real life,” said Karoline Gatter from the Webster University of Vienna, who conducted research in this field. “People use online dating because it is more convenient than looking for a partner in the offline world. It saves time and offers you a great pool of people to choose from.”

The increased usage of such websites has contributed towards a similar increase in the number of divorces taking place. Councilors are now trained to help couples affected by online affairs and attorneys are being taught how to present this type of evidence in court. The existence of websites like SecondLove.nl is often blamed for encouraging cheating and breaking relationships.

These websites make cheating easier. But it is up to individuals and their moral barriers whether to use them or not and how to use them. It can be just a wink, but it can also be the reason for your divorce.

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