Stones or Speeding Tickets?

As radar gun technology improved, and later laser speed detectors, my father used to tell me that someday it just wouldn't be possible to speed any more. You'd have to drive the speed limit all the time, because the instant you violated it a ticket would get mailed to your house. These days it might get texted to your phone, or just automatically debited from your account.

Not to worry, I said: what will really happen is that, once we're all obliged to stop pretending that we ever obey the speed limits, we'll revise them upwards according to what we really think they ought to be. The lies aren't setting us free, they're the things that are posting speed traps all over the roads. It's the truth that will really set us free.

I'm thinking about this again as the Ashley Madison hack becomes dumped on the internet. Tens of millions of people are about to have to account for their behavior. Will they be stoned to death, metaphorically, as people fear? Or will the society simply revise its standards to more honestly account for the fact that this behavior is apparently widely practiced -- the database is the size of fully ten percent of the US population, apparently.

Adultery is much more serious than speeding, of course. It's a moral offense, and not merely a formal violation of the motor vehicle code. However, our moral laws and moral standards on sexuality have rapidly eroded these last few years. Instead of the fearful punishment commentators seem to expect, I wonder if we won't see the remaining taboo against adultery collapse in the face of this exposure. That would be a grave matter for the survival of marriage -- I mean real, traditional marriage aimed at a stable family to raise and pass on a heritage for children, not celebrity-style serial marriage. Yet it seems to me a likely outcome.

None of us have any personal stake in this leak, I assume, but I'm curious as to what you think will happen as a result of it. Will we preserve the taboo by metaphorically stoning the adulterers? Or will we, as a society, elect to 'set ourselves free' of the taboo? Excepting the military, we've already removed adultery from the list of crimes punishable at law. Will we see the social follow the legal, as it so often has of late?


Texan99 said...

Society doesn't condemn adultery much any more, but I'm not sure that has much impact on whether a spouse will tolerate it.

Grim said...

Maybe. Imagine you're a hiring manager, though, and this data is easily available. Wouldn't it make sense to look to see if a prospective hire turns up in a database like this? You were going to check his Twitter account to see if he was in the habit of saying disreputable things, so why not his Ashley Madison account?

Current employees (and elected officials) aren't immune either. Here's a tool that makes it easy to see if you keep a particular kind of solemn promise.

It seems as if it would be easy to punish people for turning up in the database, and not entirely unreasonable insofar as you're punishing them by withholding a position of trust. The only reason not to do it is if -- as you say -- we no longer care about adultery as a society.

Texan99 said...

I think a lot of people have decided that it's strictly between the husband and wife and they don't want to think about it--but I agree that they change their tune quick when it's a question of whether to trust the adulterer personally. On a related note, whatever they say publicly, I think most people do alter their support of a political figure on the basis of adultery. They may not withdraw support altogether in the case of a politician to whom they're otherwise quite devoted, and they may not admit it in a poll, but some level of trust changes. For undecideds, I suspect the change is much greater.

MikeD said...

This is a tough one for me. On one hand, I am glad it is not a criminal offense, as I don't think it's actually any of the government's business who sleeps with who (save perhaps in regards to security clearances and the potential blackmail angle). On the other hand, I take oath-breaking pretty damn seriously, and would have a hard time trusting someone who cheated on their spouse. And I absolutely have turned away from candidates I previously supported based solely upon their adultery. I think it's a moral failing and a sign of poor character. And to be frank, I think if I were hiring a general laborer as an employer, I'd not worry too much about it, but if we were talking about an accountant, or someone in a position where an abuse of trust would be damaging, then yes... I'd likely not hire someone I knew to be an adulterer.

Anonymous said...

To the extent that anybody bothers to look, people who care will merely distance themselves. This will make no apparent difference at all, unless a certain type of public figure is involved.

We have more than one society existing on the same square footage in our daily lives.

You can most easily observe it in the difference in boys' and girls' behavior in elementary and middle school. There are two totally different societies, with vastly different rules of dress and behavior. The experience of school is very different for girls and boys.

The same is true of golf courses. Elin, Tiger Wood's wife, got a social disease, threw him out of the house, and moved herself and her children overseas. That was when the rest of the world (in DC) discovered an extremely ugly golf society in that town, complete with nekkid women on the golf course, not just prostitutes hanging around, nearby. This society existed in tandem with the society that I knew, which welcomed families and young children.

When Tiger publicly moved to his new society, he lost his game. It turns out, he also lost his fabulous income stream. It seems that the people who go to the golf course just to play golf, wanted nothing to do with him. I recently read an article, where a talking head just wished he'd go away, because he wasn't fun to watch, and wasn't doing anything for the game.

So, first, somebody has to look. Second, the person who is outed has to be dependent upon the support of the society that cares.


Dad29 said...

Will we preserve the taboo by metaphorically stoning the adulterers?

Umnnhhh....if it were MY wife discovering MY name there, "metaphorically" would have nothing to do with it. And it wouldn't be 'stones;' it would be high-speed lead.

Cassandra said...

I think that wins comment of the day :p