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Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Through Orlando’s Tumblr page, which is already hot enough to keep me distracted, I’ve stumbled across the Leathermen Tumblr page, which might be enough to destroy my productivity forever. Particularly distracting thus far are this image of a top wringing a washcloth (presumably full of his own sweat) over the bound and bruised body of his boy, who looks out at the camera with the most glorious expression of mingled humiliation and challenge; this prototypical image of a couple in an alley in full leathers, where the top’s expression is rough with power and pleasure and doesn’t seem to be for the camera; and this shot of a man in uniform, casually enjoying a cigarette while he rests his booted feet on a boy who’s worshipping his leathers.

What can I say, I’m an old fashioned kind of gal.

Still other images I love for their simplicity and beauty in what they evoke, like this one of a leather pantleg, hand, and boot on some stairs, or this sweet one of a Daddy cutting his boy’s hair.

If I haven’t mentioned it in this space before, I’m something of a leather slut. I’m not too excited by the kind of leather female dommes are expected to wear, though I’m happy to wear it because hey, leather. But the gay leather iconography gets me so hot it sometimes feels like I’m one of those fetishists I see from time to time whom I feel sorry for because they can never truly fulfill their fantasies: giantess fetishists, for example, or people into vore.

But from time to time I butch up and treat my girl nice, and from time to time I boy up and get kicked around by my Daddy a bit. And those are times when I feel my gender dissolve into something new and mythical and beautiful. It’s painful, too, though: I know the unreality of it, and I also embrace the femme side of me, and wouldn’t want to change. There’s something terribly poignant about this type of play, and something godlike to me about these images of men doing terrible, wonderful things to each other without shame or doubt.

One time, I got to go to Provincetown with my Daddy, and watch him get picked up, picked over and appraised by a number of men. We went cruising and drinking with these guys, hung out in front of Spiritus after closing, got shown the infamous “dick dock.” I felt like Goldilocks surrounded by all these warm and loving bears, and at the same time I felt like a squealing fangirl, a fag hag, the least interesting person in the room. Still, there was something freeing about it: I didn’t have to perform, only to admire. Only to wish I were one of them.

It was a night when I got to face down my high school demons at last, in a way I never expected. I was in love with a gay boy in high school, and I always thought it was because I wasn’t ready to have a real sexual relationship. My crushes on gay men continued through college – particularly when I didn’t know someone was gay. Later in college I dated a bi man, and would continue to stumble into queer space for a long time to come.

It’s only recently that I’ve come to recognize that fag haggery isn’t part of my sexuality: it’s more that I’m part gay boy. My attraction to gay men and leathermen isn’t entirely unrealizable: my own Daddy proves that, as do my interactions with other amazing bi men who see fit to draw me into their worlds. I’ll never be a real boy; I’m a bit like Pinocchio in all this. But I’m proud to be a part of what seems to be an ever-expanding definition of queer leather.

And still totally distracted by that Tumblr account.

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Recently, Maymay, my favorite young sexuality warrior, was attacked by two women named Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks, who are affiliated with the branch of the Salvation Army that deals with sex trafficking. They set about to defame him, name him a pedophile and a generally disgusting human being, and make out his KinkForAll unconferences to be recruitment centers for children to become involved in “violent and unhealthy sexual practices.”

Anyone who knows Maymay knows what an earnest, intelligent, caring and free person he is. His recent post, where he responds to the woman who alerted him to the bulletin by first writing a ranty post, then gracefully apologizing for her anger, is nothing short of inspiring.

As one commenter said, I want to be like him when I grow up.

At the moment, he’s looking for support, which is why I’m making this post to begin with. If you have a moment and care about the cause of sexual freedom and education, please check out his post and signal boost it.

In specific, he asks that you follow these guidelines:

* Refer to me as maymay.
* Name Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks as the sources of attacks.
* Do express your opinion, but do so civilly. Do not use hateful language when you refer to Donna M. Hughes, Margaret Brooks, or their affiliates.
* Link to my blog post(s) about this[0][1] and the posts of my friends,[2][3] but NOT to Donna M. Hughes’ or Margaret Brooks’ writings; linking there merely amplifies their damage.
* Link to your friends’ blog posts who have written about this when they do.
* Quote my blog if you feel tongue-tied or inarticulate.

It is my hope that all of us can rise to his example in this fight. We’ve all been Ranty McRantypants from time to time; in the blogosphere, it’s easy to do so. Attempting rational discourse and bridge-building is just incredible in this sphere, but it looks like it has begun.

Let’s go.

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After a great deal of work by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has agreed to change its criteria for its Paraphilias section, which up until this moment has listed Exhibitionism, Fetishism, Sexual Sadism, Sexual Masochism, Frotteurism, Pedophilia, Transvestic Fetishism, and Voyeurism as mental disorders in and of themselves. The proposed revisions would finally differentiate between these desires, which can be experienced healthily (pedophilia being possibly an exception), and the unhealthy expression of these desires, i.e. examples in which these desires inhibit day to day functioning, are exercised on non-consenting parties, or otherwise cause harm to self and/or others.

The manual will now include such things as Exhibitionistic Disorder, Sexual Masochism Disorder, and so on, and would require not just that the person exhibit the desires, but that said desires adversely affect the patient’s functioning or that they cause harm to others, such as unsuspecting strangers to which the exhibitionist exposes himself.

I will admit that I am a little concerned that pedophilia is included among these other so-called disorders: I believe that a person can have a fetish for shoes, for example, without it impinging upon his or her life or harming self or others. It’s difficult to imagine, however, someone having a strong sexual attraction to kids without it eventually becoming problematic – or even without it initially seeming sick in some way. It makes me wonder where and how we draw the line between just kinky and really actually kinda sick. Is there a way to have sexual attraction to kids and have that not be sick?

I mean, I suppose if you don’t act on it, it never actually causes harm. But I’m still not crazy about it being included with the other paraphilias, as I think that there are ways to enact the other paraphilias without causing anyone harm. I guess you could dress up someone of age as a kid. But…ugh. Seriously. Somebody help me out here. I really think that a line should be drawn between someone who gets off on hurting people – because they consent to it and like it – and someone who gets off on having sex with kids, who by definition are unable to consent. There are sadists who are truly sick, who want to hurt people who don’t want to be hurt. But are there pedophiles who aren’t truly sick? Somehow I can’t see it.

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Sorry for the long hiatus; holidays, Martian death flu, and all manner of other drama have kept me from this page. Hoping to remedy that and crank out more regular material.

Ages ago, a friend asked me how I manage privacy online. See, I have a few online identities. Some things I write are public, some aren’t. Some are under my real name, and some under this one. Some I write in a place where anyone can see it, unless I lock the post so only friends can see it. But what made this question interesting for my questioner was the fact that sometimes, I write under my real name about the same topics I cover here.

So what’s the deal? How do I decide which parts of me are public and which aren’t?

It’s probably telling that I received this question in October and still haven’t answered it.

Recently, I kind of figured out the short answer to this: as my real name, I write about topics pertaining to sexuality and relationships; as Delilah, I write about topics pertaining to my sexuality and relationships. There’s a third problem, too: there are aspects of my relationships that I consider so private and precious that I don’t even write about them here – particularly because I know that so many of my readers know me in real life. I’ve therefore published erotica under still another name, and blog in total secrecy (nobody knows the username but me) about the deepest stuff.

It’s probably also telling that I feel the need to have all of this material out there, even if nobody ever reads it or knows that it’s me writing it. What can I say: I’ve been a journaler and a maker of stories for as long as I can remember, and when I don’t write down what’s happened to me, the intensity of my experiences (which often, surprise surprise, are in the sexual realm) slip from my consciousness quickly. It’s long been important to me to have a narrative of my life, something to look back on so I can see where I’ve been and remember what’s happened to me.

My friend asked whether it ever gets weird when worlds collide: like if people I know socially start buying videos from my site, or people who have seen my writing assume things about me before meeting me. The answer to this is “sort of.” This has actually occurred a couple of times just in the past weeks. Someone who knows me socially contacted me in my capacity as Delilah for some kink consultation in person. And someone who found my writing under my real identity contacted me and seems to be assuming, because I’m poly, that I would want to meet him.

Neither of these things is “weird,” per se, but it has been and continues to be a kind of tightrope walk, figuring out what I want the whole damn world to know and what I really would rather only my friends know and what I need to write about so that someone will read it, but nobody needs to know that it’s me writing it.

I’m a great admirer of Maymay in this regard (as in many other regards), in that he has the flaming gonads to be completely out online and in every other area of his life. But even he remarks that he doesn’t write very much about the literal ins and outs of his own sex life. He’s about half a generation behind me in age, and I’m sincerely hoping that his bravery and forthrightness is a sign of things to come. For my part, though, I still can’t deal with the idea of my family finding out that I was a sex worker. I’m not sure what that says about me.

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I just know I’m going to get it for this, but here goes.

The ever-erudite and thought-provoking Orlando has got me thinking again. In an ongoing series of posts, he is examining privilege, entitlement, and the concept of slumming in the context of sexual power dynamics.

I recommend reading the series (though he charmingly and inaccurately calls them “tedious”), but the short version goes something like this. “Susie,” a traditional housewife profiled in the 1970’s conservative Baptist psychology book Sexual Sanity, is having a libido mismatch with her husband that is distracting her to the point of neglecting her duties in the home. The prescription is, of course, giving up the romance novels, soap operas, and masturbation, focusing on her marital duties, reading the Bible, oh, and maybe incidentally the husband should think about paying more attention to her.

Orlando points out that while these are people whose options were limited by their culture, lifestyle, beliefs, economics, and so on, he and Murre enact a kind of reversal of that traditional dynamic deliberately – in essence, slumming in a traditional provider/housewife arrangement. One of the going critiques of BDSM is, in essence, that we are performing a parody of relationships and power dynamics in which people have no choice: Orlando is at the laundromat writing his post while doing the household laundry because it is part of an elaborately negotiated D/s agreement; his neighbor, Rosa, is doing the laundry because that’s what’s expected of her by her husband, and what is simply done.

While these musings were interesting to me, it was really his last post that got me going. In it, he brings up the above point and adds commentary that he has collected from some radical feminist blogs: to wit, Nine Deuce’s tongue in cheek but extreme comment that males into BDSM dominance should kill themselves, and FactCheckMe’s analysis of MtF transexuals as merely men slumming as women.
(Don’t read that post, by the way, unless you want your head to explode. You have been warned.)

Orlando quite rightly points out that the telling people to renounce their privilege is pointless at best, dangerous at worst, if you give them no other options:

Radicals in general (I am not just speaking of radfems)…have focused on creating an elaborate critical literature to uncover the ways that privileged classes abuse their power in concealed ways, including the “inverted” abuse of slumming. Sheila Jeffries, to take a local example, is not simply critical of male dominance and male submission, she is critical of all male sexuality. Usually these sets of critiques are deployed to make people who deny that they are privileged realize that they are. But once someone acknowledges this privilege, the analyses remain underfoot, blocking any sort of coherent suggestion for further behavior.

At least, that’s the best version. In a darker version of things, the condemnation of all options becomes the suggestion. When 9/2 suggests that kinky men should kill themselves, she is sort of joking. When FCM tells MtF transexuals to “ke[ep] your dick and STFU,” she is not joking at all. But both authors arrive at their conclusion by systematically invalidating everything that the target class might do, either as entitlement or slumming or both. Behind 9/2’s suicide hyperbole is a genuine void left by her critiques: there is no course of action left for those men that she considers acceptable, and yet it is clearly important to her that they take her advice.

And this is where my frustration really sets in with the entire discussion – not with Orlando’s continued analysis, which you should totally read. But with what we talk about when we talk about privilege.

I am a white, Western, middle class bisexual cis-female. As such, I benefit from white privilege, cis privilege and class privilege, but not from male or heterosexual privilege. Honestly, I don’t think about that lack very much – not because it’s not important, but because I largely don’t feel my lack of that privilege in my day to day life.

I do frequently feel my own privilege, though: the ways I’m able to spend my days, the people I spend them with, the things I spend money on, hell, the money I even have. My education, my freedom, my ability, in short, to make choices.

In the endless and horrific comments to that made-of-fail post by FactCheckMe, she points out that what makes privilege privilege is the ability make choices.

I want to know exactly what’s wrong with that.

Hear me out. It seems to me that the radical movements that seek the destruction of the patriarchy and the liberation of women, minorities, and other oppressed people are missing the goddamn point, which is this: privilege is good. Power, for that matter, is good. Orlando writes, “We absolutely do not want the most privileged classes of humanity to exercise their power to its full, raw, extent.” And that is where he and I part ways.

You know what I want? I want everyone to be able to exercise their power to its full, raw extent. I don’t think that the way to empower some people is to take power away from others. I agree that pointing out privilege and making people aware of it such that they gain a greater understanding of the positions of oppressed people is an essential step for breaking down the monstrous inequalities that exist.

However. There is, as Orlando points out, nothing you can do once you’ve been made aware of your privilege. All you can do is understand that you can never understand.

So what next? Am I to go through life feeling constantly guilty that I can enjoy power dynamics and physical violence in a consensual way when there are so many people in the world who are abused? Am I, like some radical feminists, to give up penetrative sex entirely, even if I love it, because some women are raped? If part of male privilege, as FactCheckMe says, is being raised to believe that whatever you want or desire, however trivial, you can have it – does that mean I must never follow my own desires, especially not the frivolous ones?

People, this is backwards. The path to addressing privilege and ending oppression is not to remove even more choice from oppressed people. It’s to work to ensure choice for everybody.

Now, it’s facile and privilege-soaked to say such a thing, I know. But seriously? The only way to make sure that the subsistence farmer really wants to be there is to give him the opportunity to go to college and do something else. The only way to know that a woman is truly choosing stay-at-home-mom-hood is to open other possibilities through education and at-work childcare.

Which brings me to my next point, which is about the values we place on various types of life work.

Looking at, say, the subsistence farmer above and saying, oh, look how much better his life would be if he could go to college – that’s class privilege talking. But turning around and telling that college-educated person that he’s not allowed to become a subsistence farmer himself because that’s slumming – that’s ridiculous.

The problem here is partly one of choice, yes: in order for equality to truly exist, the presence of choice is paramount. But it’s also partly a problem of values: as a society, we automatically place a college education, a career in business, law or medicine, and the “earning” of vast amounts of money above learning a trade, raising children, keeping house, telling stories and growing food.

Which is to say: it is deeply problematic to pity a farmer because she never got a college education and became a doctor – even if that person had every opportunity to do so. Seeing someone’s lack of choice in the world and seeking to help correct it is a good thing. Seeing someone’s deliberate choice and deciding it’s wrong because of some misguided idea of wasted potential or perceived insult to those who do not have that choice available – that’s insanity.

Of course, if everyone had privilege, we couldn’t call it “privilege” anymore, as the word implies privilege above someone else. But “power”? There’s an entire philosophy around that. To borrow a phrase from Starhawk, what is desirable in this world is to increase everyone’s power-with rather than power-over. To help others, as best we can, to come into their own power – and express it in the ways that make the most sense to them.

The way to do this is not to take power away from others – power is not a zero-sum game, any more than love is. I submit to you that it is impossible to smash the patriarchy, to destroy white power, or to crush heterosexism. These are systems that are so entrenched, and belong so much to the majority, that they cannot be destroyed using force. But they can be phased out, little by little, if we fight to increase the power and agency of all people. The more people know, the more people are aware of and have access to all the opportunities and possibilities available in the human experience – the fewer people can be recruited to the dark side, brainwashed, or swept under by the tide.

I’m not saying that people won’t make bad choices, or be manipulated, or even – dare we say it – not be smart enough or strong enough to do the right thing. But that’s not the point. If we don’t allow people to choose – if we don’t even give them the benefit of the doubt that they have agency – then we’re totally screwed. If the patriarchy or whatever cultural force that’s like the water the fish are swimming in is so pervasive that we can’t trust human beings to have free will, then it’s going to just be one paternalistic ruling class after another telling us what’s right.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not the world I want to live in, however imperfect my current world is. Here’s what I’m working on: being the change I want to see in the world. I’ll skip the post-patriarchy and take a world where a poor man can choose to be a doctor, an orphan girl can grow up to be president, a university-educated person can choose to become a dairy farmer without ridicule or judgment, people across the gender spectrum can choose to play with power dynamics in intimate relationship to another person if that’s what turns them on, and in short – anyone can pursue their kind of happiness in peace, so long as it harms no one. (And by “harm” I mean “non-consensual harm,” not some goddamn cane marks.)

Maybe I’m just an idealist. Or soaking in privilege. I don’t know. Have at.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about why I stopped doing professional domination per se, and the more I talk about it with friends and loved ones, the clearer it becomes.

So I thought I’d talk about it here a bit.

When I talk about this, I talk about a number of different reasonings for quitting: the work was no longer serving me, the work was subtly harming me, I was concerned about the effect I was having in the world. But what it all comes down to is one concept that permeates all the smaller reasons: I seek greater integration.

In the world. Reading Bitchy started it for me: an increased awareness, or rather putting words to the awareness, that the world I was involved in is fucked up beyond belief. While I often disagree with her categorical statements (which, to her credit, she spends a lot of time qualifying by reminding readers that they apply only to her), I felt something huge come together in my head when I first started reading her. I’d always had the feeling, since I started the pro work over four years ago, that there was something that felt vaguely wrong about it to me. I watched other pros interact with their long-term slaves and felt uncomfortable. I was unassuaged by those dommes’ assurances that the slaves “loved it” when they got bitched out, yelled at, treated like indentured-servant dirt. At the time I figured, “hey, not my kink” and resolved not to do things that way. But I continued to be creeped out by what I saw: pro-seeking submissive males’ total deference to all women, whether earned or not (so-called “female supremacy;” I came to call it “pedestalizing”); many pro dommes’ senses of entitlement and ungluedness from the real world (my mentors in this business were rare exceptions, which is possibly why they wanted to help me to begin with); and the overall unsexiness, to me, of the whole thing. It’s worth noting that I got fewer clients, both in-person and on Niteflirt, because I wasn’t willing to be a total bitch.

The world of pro dommes and paying submissives was severely un-integrated, it seemed to me. As a marketplace, that world divorced for me what was sexy about female dominance and male submission and consistently revealed itself to me as chiefly a monetary exchange, in which the woman received monetary gain, and the man received a simulacrum of the pleasure of true submission to a loving partner. Just another aspect of the world’s oldest profession, I suppose, but I was never fully comfortable moving in that world. I didn’t travel much, found going to parties geared toward pro relationships uncomfortable, and only really dipped my toes into creating femdom porn. I’m still wondering if I’ll ever make videos again; if I do, I’m curious to see what would happen if I did them on my own terms, rather than trying to cater to the market. Which brings up another point: it’s curious to me that the biggest market for femdom porn is also the world of forced feminization, heavy humiliation, and female supremacy. Where, I wonder along with Roberta Flack, is the love?

In my sessions. Once in a while I would have a real connection with a client – a feeling of mutual attraction resulting in a really fun session for both of us. When this happened I was often left feeling a little sad: here was someone I’d happily play with for free, in “real life,” and I’d never even be able to tell him my real name, and he probably wouldn’t want to know it.

And that was the best of times. Most of the time, I felt kind of like a jukebox. Men I mostly found unattractive would pay me to enact various scripts in the standard femdom canon, and I would enact them well and spiritedly, but leave sessions feeling drained. I’m always amused when I read memoirs that include the subject doing pro domme work, and they talk about how easy it was. Sure, if you don’t have any feelings, I guess. The sessions I had with men I wasn’t attracted to left me with various feelings: the worst was feeling totally creeped out, which luckily didn’t happen often. But most of the time I again felt sad: many of these men were afraid to reveal their kinks to their partners, were in essence cheating on their wives, or had told their partners about it and it had made them sick. While I was happy to be able to provide a service that these men could not have fulfilled elsewhere, I was frustrated to be contributing to a culture of dis-integration, to be essentially putting a band-aid on the gaping wound of self-hatred these men were often bearing. Again, the woundedness of the pro world impressed itself upon me: the availability of pro dommes props up the idea that being a submissive man is shameful and needs to be hidden away from real life.

It was always a great joy when I saw the rare client who was brand new to kink and wanted to try it out safely, or whose partner knew what he was doing and approved but was uninterested herself, or who was clearly at peace with his submissive desires and only sought a professional because it was what was practical in the moment. If only these were the norm.

But in myself. I found my true desires becoming decoupled from my actions. Things I used to enjoy: dressing up in fetish gear, receiving foot worship, flogging someone – became associated with work and desexualized. Contact I had with people at work was in fact intimate, but I knew the boundaries of that intimacy and cut it off from my heart and head. That leaked over into my personal life, where I started finding true intimacy more difficult to engage in.

Integration. Connecting the heart, the crotch, and the head. Connecting sexual desire with the rest of life. Connecting sex to intimacy, submission to respect, domination to desire.

Someone I love dearly said it outright the other night, in a way I never could have myself: “Essentially, you were doing something that was against your nature.”

Yes. I’ve never been one for casual sex. I’ve had whirlwind romances, but I’ve never been much for sex with strangers, particularly if it wasn’t going to be followed up on. I have a general rule: if I don’t think I’ll want to do it again, I don’t tend to do it the first time.

I knew the danger of this going into this work, which is why I had very strong boundaries about not having sex with clients. But I didn’t realize to what extent I was having sex with clients: this work is a kind of sex, too, at least if you’re doing it right.

And that’s why I’m taking the work in the direction I’m taking it: I want to truly help people, not just keep them limping along. I never wanted to be a triage doctor; I wanted to be someone who helps the mostly healthy achieve optimum health.

And I no longer want to have sex with strangers for money. I want to help strangers have better sex with each other.

Help me help you. 🙂

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I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it anymore. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t been over to the radfem blogs lately, though I’m sure I’ll keep on reading Trinity and then it’ll be all over.

But I just finished reading two essays from the old standby that I’m ashamed not to have read yet, Coming to Power, edited by Pat Califia. The first, by Gayle Rubin, is entitled “The Leather Menace: Comments on Politics and SM,” and was completed in the very early 1980s.

It begins with the wonderful line, “It is difficult to discuss the politics of sadomasochism when the politics of sex in general are so depressingly muddled.” As I read on through the article, as well as Califia’s article on the founding and first few years of the lesbian leather association Samois, I was struck by what my leather ancestors, as it were, went through. Raids; attacks by not just the mainstream media but by NOW and other feminist organizations, including lesbian organizations; exclusion from the gay rights movement; silencing by the feminist movement; demonization by nearly everyone; arrests, child custody contests, and so on.

But the thing that killed me was the rhetoric from feminists of the day, like this gem from Diane Russell:

I see sadomasochism as resulting in part from the internalization of heterosexual dominant-submissive role playing. I see sadomasochism among lesbians as involving in addition an internalization of the homophobic heterosexual view of lesbians. Defending such behavior as healthy and compatible with feminism, even proselytizing in favor of it is about the most contra-feminist anti-political and bourgeois stance that I can imagine.

Not to mention Susan Griffin, whose essay “Hunger as Ideology” I have taught to freshman writing classes, who had this incredibly insulting thing to say about it:

The fact is, the whole culture is S/M, we’re all sadomasochists. The people in SAMOIS, or gay people who wear leather, have a more severe form of the disease.

Nice. Sound familiar to anyone here? Has this rhetoric changed in thirty years, like, at all?

I guess it’s nice that we’re now living in an age where S/M is a fact of life, suffuses the fashion industry and music videos, and will not generally get you arrested. Getting tongue-lashed by feminists is not the worst thing that can happen. But I just find myself really sad that this segment of feminism, which tends to claim to speak for all feminists, hasn’t gotten its collective head on straight yet about this issue.

For those following along at home, Pat Califia said it best, back in 1981 or so: “Until women own their own bodies and have the right to seek erotic pleasure completely, with no restrictions, women will not be free.”

As the kids were only too recently saying, period-dot.

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