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Why do women cheat? Ashley Madison CEO tells all

Is cheating bad? In this Q&A, we got Noel Biderman, founder and CEO of the marital-affair site Ashley Madison, to tell all, from why women cheat to how affairs can actually HELP a marriage and why he thinks he'll do well in China.

What are your demographics?

It's more about a psychographic than a demographic. The average age of a male on AshleyMadison.com is 41 years old. The average age of women is 34. That doesn't tell the whole story. There are first-time affair seekers who are maybe 31, 32 or 33. It's not so much a 7-year itch as a 3-4-year itch — that first bump in monogamy after a first child. When your sex life starts to wane. At the other end, we have empty nesters. We have tons of men who love their families, love their partner but look across the table and there's not that sexual attraction.

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In this video clip from the documentary, "Dishonesty: The Truth About Lies" (above), Erika Nelson, who used AshleyMadison.com, explains what led her to stray from her husband.

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Why do women cheat?

At the heart of it is being the object of desire. Someone thought you were the greatest thing and wanted to spend their life with you. Ripping that away from someone feels awful. Now they don't even want to look at you, touch you, talk to you. But you have economic stability — A home. Kids. Family. You don't want to walk away from that just because you feel less than desired. People think, "I'll just put myself out there in an anonymous way." They want to rekindle that object of desire. You'll often find women seeking this attention by Facebooking with past lovers.

How is that different from men?

For men, it's often a sexual void — their partner isn't sleeping with them. They might think, "All I get is vanilla sex." They don't want vanilla — they want to try different flavors. Someone of different ethnicity. Age. Body type. Sexual appetite. The big thing, and this came out of a study by one university — oral sex. If your partner desires more activity in the oral sex department and you're not willing to participate, that is a big indicator that an affair might happen. The joke around here – maybe we should've named the site Oral Madison! Clearly there is an oral sex void in America.

Read MoreLiar! Three ways to tell if someone is lying

What's the market for cheating?

It hasn't been easy to study infidelity before the Internet — cheaters don't put their hands up. I'm sitting on a lot of big data. I sign up 35,000 people a day. I get 120 million visitors a month. There are 1.2 million communications sent on my platform every day!

Is it just in the U.S.?

It turns out infidelity is global! There's no country you can point me to where it doesn't exist. Even in places where it's punishable by death! How many things would you risk your life for right now? Would you be celibate for the rest of your life? You might risk your freedom for that. That's how strong biological drive is. We're not engineered for monogamy. And we're certainly not engineered for celibacy.

We're in 48 countries and in 19 different languages. We have a significant arranged marriage population among women. A lot of Indian women — and they're not looking for Indian men.

"If we base a marriage on monogamy, are we setting ourselves up for failure? I think we are." -Noel Biderman, Ashley Madison founder and CEO

Do you let single people in?

Yes. We didn't want to close off that community. The most interesting part is that when we first built the service, 98.9 percent of communications by a married woman were to a married man. Now that's down to 83 percent. 17 percent are to single men! There's no word for a male mistress — but we'd better find one!

How do you make sure there isn't any online prostitution or other illegal activity going on?

When you're Ashley Madison, you do attract some non-relevant users. This is not an online brothel. But we know how a married woman typically behaves: She builds a profile. She peruses a few profiles. She sits back. So, if someone signs up, posts a public photo and then sends out 25 message to all kinds of guys, that's a bad actor. We won't deliver those messages. Every profile is reviewed before we let them into our community. We catch a lot of bad actors every day.

What times of day are most popular — do people look at work?

We see a lot of people on our site at work – huge blips at 830am, 1230pm or 430pm. We built a panic button right into it – it's on the right side floating by the chat window. If some colleague walks by — boom! You just hit the panic button. It's used quite a bit — thousands of times a day!

If you want to leave no trace you were here, we can recall everything — every image, text message you ever sent. To us, the perfect affair was not like meeting of the minds — it was about not getting discovered.


Ashley Madison
Source: Ashley Madison

How is your customer-service department different?

A third of our staff is customer service. 54 in total. A free dating service could never do this.

Do people confess to you a lot because you're the guy who founded a cheating website?

Yes! People confess to me at every opportunity. I did a debate for ABC News a few years ago on the Ten Commandments at a megachurch in Texas. It was live in front of 5,000 congregants. For three hours after the debate, people were lined up to talk to me! It wasn't questions about my business – it was confessions about their sins and their struggles. They treated me like a Catholic priest! They wanted to see my perspective — how do you align faith with this? Maybe religious people are more unfaithful — because they have a place to confess! Other people may carry the guilt around a little longer.

Read MoreFive red flags that pop up when someone is lying

Is cheating bad?

Undiscovered cheating is good. I have come to accept that. When people hide behind breaking trust, they didn't succeed with monogamy. If my wife cheated, I wouldn't blame an inanimate object. I would say, "What need did I fail to meet that made her go down that path?" Cheating is like the secret glue that keeps millions of marriages together. I would cheat before I would leave.

Have you ever cheated?

I did when I was younger and in college. Isn't that what college is for — being an idiot? Experimenting. I got married later in life. I'm ready to attempt this path. I have learned how to better navigate my marriage based on the data I get to see.

Do you think marital cheaters will cheat in other areas of their life or business?

I don't think it works that way. I don't' think because you cheat on your spouse, you cheat on your taxes.

Read MoreWe all lie (And it's contagious!)

How did you do during the recession?

We've lost a few advertisers but people came back in 2009! They were like — "Hey, you want to advertise with us?" They got on their moral high horse but did an about face when they couldn't make ends meet. Our advertising in that period quadrupled.

What's next?

Amazon, Google — some of the best companies in the world have failed going to China. I might succeed because I have a more compelling offering! Every country that's growing — people want to play around. I have a media interview in Israel for our media ban there. Then I'm off to Russia.

Here's an example of our impact: People can be put in jail in South Korea for infidelity. Two weeks into our launch there — after we'd signed up 56,000 people — the government blocked access to Ashley Madison. But what is it? It's a communication platform. If people use gmail to have an affair, then they'd have to block Google. We sued and got the law revoked. I impacted a Supreme Court decision in a foreign country. That's a societal impact — the proof is in the pudding.

Noel Biderman, aka "The King of Infidelity," is the president of Avid Life Media and the founder and CEO of Ashley Madison, the marital-affair website. Follow him on Twitter @noelbiderman.

For more on why we lie — from harmless fibs to extraordinary acts of criminal deceit, watch the CNBC premiere of, "Dishonesty: The Truth About Lies," Thursday May 28 at 10pm ET / PT.