Dangerous liaisons: A peep into the illicit world of adult dating sites

Sex has always been a big part of the internet, but as the Ashley Madison hack shows, it can be a risky business. We delve into an industry that offers everything from swinging to sugar daddies.

by Rachel Savage
Credit: Amer Ghazzal/Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Amer Ghazzal/Alamy Stock Photo

From the very dawn of the world wide web, the internet has been used for sex - and not just the pornographic kind. Whether lusting after a one-night stand or looking for true love, it didn't take long for people to cotton onto the concept of going online to arrange offline liaisons.

But lately, with adultery-arranging site Ashley Madison hacked and 'swipe-right-to-like' app Tinder accused of commoditising dating, companies in the business of arranging encounters have been thrust, excuse the pun, into the spotlight. Is the industry facing a backlash of 12-inch proportions or merely ripples of discomfort from society getting used to more liberal ways of living?

It's mid-afternoon on a Friday and a dozen or so people are active on Heaven Social, the decidedly retro (think Facebook's first iteration) social network of Heaven Circle, a two-and-a-half-year-old company that throws 'elite' sex parties. A couple of chat boxes pop up.

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