Dating agency sued over ‘infidelity’ ads
The Association of Catholic Families in France (ACF) has filed a civil case against an on-line dating agency, accusing it of illegally promoting infidelity.
The company, Gleeden, boasts that it is the world’s leading:
Extra-conjugal site conceived for married women.
According to this report by the BBC’s Hugh Schofield, this so infuriated the ACF that it filed a lawsuit against the company – and it might win the case because the idea of fidelity as an integral part of marriage is specifically spelt out in the French Civil Code.
Article 212 of the Civil Code states:
Married partners owe each other the duty of respect, fidelity, help and assistance.
Says Jean-Marie Andres, ACF President:
There are plenty of other websites out there which promote sexual contact between individuals, but what makes Gleeden different is that its very business model is based on marital infidelity.
It states quite openly that its purpose is to offer married women opportunities to have sex outside the marriage.
But here in France, people and parliament are all in agreement that marriage is a public commitment. It’s in the law. What we are trying to do with our suit is show that the Civil Code – the law – has meaning.
Gleeden does not demur from the accusation that it is aimed at married women. Far from it. Married women are its unique selling point.
The advertisements which caused such horror among conservatives and Catholics blatantly encourage wives to think that cheating is both permissible and fun.
One poster displayed on buses and metros shows an attractive young woman in a bridal dress with her fingers crossed behind her back. The message is clear: vows are for suckers.
Founded in 2009, the website says it has 2.3 million members in Europe including one million in France. It has smaller operations in the US and other countries.
Under the Gleeden model, women do not pay to be registered on the site. Men buy credit, opening up different levels of access to registered women. Though accurate information on this is impossible to obtain, Gleeden says 80 percent of the people who use it are indeed married.
Margot, a Parisian aged 44, is one such user. She has been married for many years, but says she is unsatisfied sexually. However she has no intention of leaving her husband.
I chose Gleeden precisely because it is for married people. It means that the person you meet knows your situation. There’s no deception. We can talk openly about husbands, wives and children.
Also when we are both married, we both accept we only want to go so far in the relationship. It’s easier to keep things uncomplicated. We respect each other’s private life.
She understands why some people might be shocked by the way the website promotes itself.
Let’s face it – it is promoting infidelity. In fact, it’s selling infidelity. It’s making money out of it. People could easily be pushed into the act after seeing those advertisements.
But let us not be hypocritical. It’s not black and white. In most marriages at some point there is infidelity, but that does not mean the marriages collapse. Sometimes the infidelity is what saves the marriage.
Gleeden representatives make a similar point.
Says spokeswoman Solene Paillet:
We have plenty of clients who tell us that having a secret garden is what saved them from walking out of the marriage. We didn’t invent adultery. Adultery would exist whether we were there or not.
All we are doing is filling a demand. If people see our advertisements and are shocked, well there is no obligation. If you see a nice car in an ad, you aren’t obliged to buy it. You make your own mind up.
Lawyers say that the AFC case is far from frivolous. Article 212 does have force in law.
Says Stephane Valory, a specialist in family law:
By organising relationships between married people, it is possible to argue that Gleeden is inciting couples to violate their civic duty. However there is no certainty about it. In a case like this the courts will also take into account the changing moral values of modern society. The notion of a duty to fidelity is quite loose.
Fifty years ago many more people would have been shocked by what Gleeden is offering. Today it is only a minority who notice. So the courts will certainly not rule in the same way as they would have 50 years ago.
That may well be true because 50 years ago the old penal code was still in force, which made adultery an actual crime. Under the 1810 code, a woman caught in adultery could be imprisoned for up to two years – while a man received only a fine.
In fact the clause had long been a dead letter before it was abrogated in 1975.
Today – especially after the Charlie-Hebdo attack – a far more sensitive issue in France is the encroachment of religion into public life.
The separation of religion and state is held as a supreme good, and courts may look askance at a plea motivated by Catholic abhorrence.
On the other hand the lack of checks on 21st century permissiveness is arguably a factor pushing some to religious fundamentalism.
The judges shall decide.
Hat tip: Angela K.