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> "porn: Is It Cock-blocking Feminism?", All About Feminism and Sex Work
doodlebug
post Jul 25 2006, 11:07 PM
Post #1


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Posts: 7,808
From: a riverbank in BC, Canada


Um...just want to clarify...while prostitution is theoretically legal in Canada, practising prostitution is NOT. The Criminal Code prohibits all forms of public communication for the purpose of prostitution, which makes legally engaging in it almost impossible. It does, in theory, place equal legal peril upon johns and pimps, but this has not translated into any real equal justice. Sex workers, who are mostly women, still bear the burden of legal retribution.

I also believe that survival sex - women (and children) engaging in sex for a meal or a safe place to sleep for the night - must be included in the definition of prostitution, even though it is perfectly "legal" (for women, anyway, if not children).

I work in a women's centre. A large number of women who access us are street-involved women, many of whom are involved in the sex trade. In my job, I provide woman-centred information, referral, support, and advocacy to any woman/child who asks for it, including sex workers.

I do NOT support legalization, because I know there are welfare caseworkers who would have no problem telling women: "There's work out there, go get it." I also believe legalization would provide another avenue for the state and private businesses to control and regulate women's bodies, potentially to the detriment of women's health and personal freedom. Legalization also doesn't put an end to women (and children) working illegally, if they don't meet regulatory standards for "legal" prostitution work...such legal divisions could actually drive these women (and children) underground, making it harder for them to access legal protections against abuse and exploitation.

I do support decriminalization. The main reason I support it is because removing prostitution from the criminal justice system would allow for an environment where sex workers could organize, be more independent, and have more guaranteed protections from pimps, abusive clients, abusive police officers, and others. It would also make it much harder for communities and governments to keep their heads in the sand about the resources sex workers need.

I can't really say whether or not sex work is empowering to women, mainly because it's not up to me to determine what is empowering for another woman. I have never engaged in any aspect of sex work, so I have no personal experience to draw from. I have huge issues with the poverty and violence that perpetuates most of the problems related to the sex trade, but I've also heard some sexual abuse survivors say that engaging in sex work (not "just" prostitution, but also activities like stripping or making porn) is the first time in their lives they felt empowered about their bodies and their sexuality, so what can I say to that? I also believe there are cases where legitimate "healing" can be gained by clients of sex workers, and let's face it, while it's often thought that men who hire prostitutes are sad and lonely and/or "creeps," some people just cannot access regular sexual companionship, for many reasons, which may include disability, appearance, or surviving childhood sexual abuse. If it were me, and I were genuinely helping someone on a healing journey, I might end up feeling pretty empowered by it.

I can say that most women (and children) in my community who engage in sex for money are doing so to support themselves and their children first, and their addictions second. Please note that I'm not saying all sex workers are addicts...I'm actually trying to dispel a myth. In most cases where addictions exist, the addictions came about as a way to cope with the lifestyle - the idea that people enter the sex trade in order to support addictions is a misconception...although it is true in some cases. Unfortunately, many people engaged in prostitution do not have the skills to complete a post-secondary education. Most are not the "kind of people" a business owner would even think about hiring - that's the truth. In my community, and probably many communities across Canada, most prostitutes are poor Aboriginal women (and children) who have already experienced some kind of abuse in their lives.

I believe that as long as we do not have economic equality and freedom from violence, sex work cannot really be considered a genuine "choice" for women. While some individual women may be able to choose sex work freely, the reality is that most of those individual women are women of privilege (white, educated, etc.), and they don't represent the majority of those involved in the sex trade. I also think trying to eradicate sex work is a terrible waste of time, energy, and resources, because I don't believe sex work can be eradicated - and in a "utopian" society where women would have free choice, I doubt it would need to be eradicated. I prefer to devote my own time, energy, and resources as a feminist to ensuring that women are safe, supported, in control, and that they are being paid appropriately for their work.


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erinjane
post Jul 25 2006, 10:38 PM
Post #2


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 1,301
From: Winnipeg


Prostitution is actually legal in canada, but NOT decriminalized. Huge difference that most people don't know about. From the Sex Professionals of Canada website:

http://www.spoc.ca/decrimvslegal.html


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txplumwine
post Jul 25 2006, 10:09 PM
Post #3


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 344
From: That big ol' city on the Texas Gulf Coast


This is a fantastic thread and I'm so glad to see intelligent, thoughtful conversation going on. I'm more interested in reading than commenting, but I did want to throw one thing out - sort of a request.

There have been several mentions of prostitution being illegal, which is true in the U.S. (with some exceptions, noted by other posters) and many other places. But there are quite a few BUSTies who live in countries where it's legal, and even (as mentioned about Nevada) regulated. I would really appreciate hearing their thoughts on the matter. It would also be fantastic to hear from those who are counselors to or advocates for individuals involved in any kind of sex work.

That's all I have. Thanks for your patience with the de-lurk and mad props again for a great thread.
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falljackets
post Jul 25 2006, 09:26 PM
Post #4


crush groovin'
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Posts: 1,661
From: home with the bebe


wow, knorl, i completely agree with your last post. nearly word for word.

in regard to the empowerment question. yes, it's true that i could lose this job if my co-workers found out about the pictures. i'd also lose it if i streaked my hair blue or pierced my eyebrow. it's a suck corporate job that i hate anyway. and if i did lose it, i'd find some other way to make my own way. why? because of my fucking charm, wit, common sense, education AND the beautiful body that it's wrapped in. i am empowered enough to pull myself up by my own bootstraps (if i happen to be wearing them, mind you) and do whatever it is that i WANT to do to make my own money, using whatever parts of my whole that i choose - whether that means posing for more pictures or starting my own marketing firm.

i enjoyed taking those pictures and i love how they made me feel and continue to make me feel when i look at them again. while i could be fired by small-minded people because of them, i'm certainly not threatened by them or ashamed of them in any way.



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knorl05
post Jul 25 2006, 08:44 PM
Post #5


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Posts: 819
From: detroit rock city


zahia: the double standards exist and it is frustrating for any woman who just wants to be free to be who she is.. to be the given the same social rights as a man to choose what she finds pleasure in and what she chooses to engage in. what i've learned is that, no matter what path we choose in life, we must be confident in that decision. people are going to be ignorant. people are going to have an opinion about us and what we do in life; those who dont follow the social norm simply get more attention and reaction from those who live an average life. but in order to not allow ourselves to be oppressed, we must remain strong in who we are and what we can offer as individuals.


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zahia1996
post Jul 25 2006, 07:26 PM
Post #6


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From: dirty south


Pixie, what you mentioned about FJ made me think. Why was she even fired for that? It was a perfectly legal job! But that double standard exists, and it drives me crazy. For example, porn is rampant in the military, especially on deployments. No one seems to bat an eye at it. BUT, if you pose in a pornographic magazine, website, what have you, you will be discharged, most likely under "dishonorable". What I'd like to know is why is it sanctioned to consume and pay for pornography, but not to earn a wage from it? Its so hypocritical it makes me want to tear my hair out!!
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pixiedust
post Jul 25 2006, 05:33 PM
Post #7


Tink's Red headed Step Sis
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From: oklahoma


I can't help going back to what falljackets said yesterday about how she would probably be fired from her job and has been turned down for another because of the photos she did which seem kind of in the same line as what you are going to do. I don't think I would find that very empowering.

I think just about evryone has a fantasy at one time or another of getting paid for sex or wanted by lots of guys at once...I wonder if it isn't just the thrill of acting out these fantasies that leads some people to make the choice to get into the sex industry. From what I hear, a lot of people get disillusioned pretty quick.

Erin, I think what you are doing probably falls into some sort of gray area. You are doing your pictures privately, you'll probably never have an interaction with your patrons...from your end, it's not sex.


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girlbomb
post Jul 25 2006, 04:25 PM
Post #8


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I, too, wonder about the "empowering" thing. I understand that it's pleasurable to be viewed as sexy, but I'm not sure it gives anyone "power," outside of a temporary ego boost (and possible financial boost). I've read some Girls Gone Wild girls talking about how "empowering" the experience was. Really? Okay. If you feel that way, more "power" to you. Looks to me like your superpower is extracting sperm from troglodytes -- not a difficult trick.

You know who's empowered? Condoleeza Rice. Hillary Clinton. Barbara Boxer. Love 'em or hate 'em, they got some fucking power.
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erinjane
post Jul 25 2006, 02:13 PM
Post #9


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Posts: 1,301
From: Winnipeg


I'll give you some direct info from the website:

QUOTE
So you want to model for cherrystems? Sounds good! Since I�m a fan of making people fully aware of what they�re getting into, I�m going to be up front with you and tell you exactly what to expect.

Who can model for cherrystems? Anyone. Female, male, any shape or size. I just need to know that you�re confident in doing this. It�s a great project to be a part of, in my opinion. We�re Canadian, we�re individuals, and we�re doing our part to show the porn industry that plastic is not sexy, and that just because someone has made the decision to be a nude model, she or he is not of lesser intelligence, nor is she or he an object without a voice. There will be profiles for you to customize, journals to write in, message boards to vent on, and more.

Will I get paid? If you�re asking this question as one of your first, I�d really like you to ask yourself about your motivations. I�m not expecting to make money for myself from the site. I�ll be putting any money I make right back into the site, in hopes that it takes off and catches on. I need to do things like paying for a dedicated server and secure credit card verification system, etc. I will be paying out backpay to models that ask for it once I can (when the site takes off and we start to pull in some membership coin.), but it will not be a huge huge number. Most of the models for the site are doing this because they love themselves and are dedicated to the cause. Some want to have the photos for personal fulfillment, to say that they did it. There�s all kinds of motivations, money should not be your top motivation at this point. I�m paying for everything out of pocket at this point, and I�m a student with tons of debt. I�d love to pay all of you for being so beautiful, but I just can�t right now. For that, I feel kind of shitty. But if we all work together and give up a bit of coin now, it�s more than likely that we�ll see more in the future.

So what do I do? Get naked. As naked as you�d like. Staying in some sexy underpants is fine. As much as I hate to say this, I�m going to make boobs a requirement for the ladies and bums a requirement for the boys (to be fair, boy boobs are different than girl boobs). I hate having requirements, but that seems to be the nature of the beast at the moment. We have to offer something up. Once we become established, I think we can play with the rules a lot more. Anyway. The fun stuff! You can get naked in any way that you�d like. Consult with me, or a friend, or the photographer of your choice, or a rock. Anything! Be sure to have fun with it. Pick a theme that makes you happy, or a place that makes you happy. That tends to make you more comfortable and your photos will reflect it. Like I say, if you need any help at all with ideas, you have a well of resources at your fingertips.


It's really aimed at anyone. I know women my age who would use it. I know a lot of girls who browse sites like that in an effort to see a variety of shapes and sizes of women as a body positive thing. But I'm not naive, in that I know that men will be using it to get off as well. The aim, as far as I've been told, is more to the twenty something, feminist-like crowd, but I imagine who will actually view it will be quite varying.


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pixiedust
post Jul 25 2006, 02:05 PM
Post #10


Tink's Red headed Step Sis
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Posts: 1,810
From: oklahoma


I think I'd have go with the answers from some of Maddys questions. Paid vs. not paid really doesn't change anything in my mind. Poseing nude for pictures for your own pleasure or to share with your significant other or for art is different than say posing for a porn site. I also think it has a little to do with content of the pictures. I like to see beautiful women posed...but I'm not so big into sexual acts. The idea that this man and this woman are doing something that intimate not by choice( as in, you're hot, I'm into you, and I wanna do you), but for a job...really just turns me off.

ETA: working and posting so it's taking me a while and I am cross posting with people. Zahia, I think you are right about porn being in the eye of the beholder. And even though we were specifically discussing hardcore porn in teh other thread, even soft porn can be a problem if someone is obcessed with it. YOur story also reminded me of someone who I used to know who was really into me and told me that he thought about me while masterbating. It really turned me off and made me feel dirty and used even though I had never done anything to encourage it.


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~May the Fleas of one thousand camels infest the crotch of any person who messes up your day, and may their arms be too short to scratch!~
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zahia1996
post Jul 25 2006, 01:57 PM
Post #11


BUSTie
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Posts: 38
From: dirty south


I'll try and keep this as brief as possible (hard, when there's so much I want to say!). First, I tend to agree with Maddy's opinion of what constitutes sex work. Regarding prostitution, its been around for a long time, and I don't see it going away. Although it makes me sad to think that anyone would have to pay for companionship, sexual or otherwise, I do see benefits to legalizing it in terms of safety for the women involved. Among legal, registered "sex workers" in Nevada, there have yet to be any reported cases of HIV. Testing is rigoruous for STDs. There have been very few cases of violence against the women, as generally the brothels are monitored by security cameras.
As for feeling "empowered" by sex work, well...I think some people do feel that way, but I don't think i would be one of them. Just my personal opinion. Here's my (accidental) experience with it: I have struggled with hating myself b/c of my looks most of my life. I have always felt like I was smart, accomplished, funny, and a good friend. All things to be proud of, but it wasn't enough for me. I wanted to feel beautiful and sexy as well. Not just because of societal pressure (i don't think, although it plays a role) but also because I've been raised to believe I can "have it all". And I want to. So last year (I looove photography) I took a picture to send my husband who was overseas. It was black and white, and I was fully clothed (sweater, ruffled bloomers, and fishnets). I loved the picture. Artistically, to me, it was the best I had done. Furthermore, I thought I looked good in it! It was a huge thing for me, as I used to typically hide from mirrors and cameras. I was so proud of it I asked if he minded if I posted it online (MySpace), and he said sure. I guess I was naive, but I saw it as art. From my friends I got a very positive response, and it made me really happy. And then the comments and emails from strangers started rolling in, and some of them were outright disgusting. Requests for phone sex, just really graphic descriptions of what they wanted to "do" to me. I took the picture down, but it made me angry, and a little sad too. It really disappointed me that these people who i didn't even know, took something I had been proud of and turned it into something sleazy. I guess Porn is in the eye of the beholder. I supposed if I had INTENDED the picture to be pornographic, i wouldn't have been so bothered by the response. But the whole experience left enough of a sour taste in my mouth that I can't see myself doing it again in a public forum.
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maddy29
post Jul 25 2006, 01:29 PM
Post #12


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 934
From: Boston, MA


ej-what is the website for? who is it geared at? what are the pictures for?
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erinjane
post Jul 25 2006, 01:17 PM
Post #13


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 1,301
From: Winnipeg


I meant to make this point in my last post, but forgot. I just wanted to mention that I know some people considering my modelling nude (but nothing sexual) to be sex work, but at this point I am not actually being paid because the site is just beginning to get up, and because the girl who is starting it is a friend, and my boyfriends best friend. I think the fact that whether or not I get paid would make a different in people's opinions. So does my getting paid or not for what I do make a difference in your opinion of my modelling?


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pixiedust
post Jul 25 2006, 12:49 PM
Post #14


Tink's Red headed Step Sis
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From: oklahoma


I mentioned this in the other thread, but aI'll mention it here again....my thoughts are that a well educated women have far more to offer to the world than her body, even if it doesn't pay as well....and think that is what most feminists are working towards is getting society to pay women more for their intellctual contributions than their body...so I personally would feel it was a sell out. I think it is sad that it does pay so much and is considered such easy money. I think a lot more women make the choice to do that for a living than would if they were chosing solely on what they truely wanted to do with thier lives. In that sense I almost question whether some of these woman are truly empowered by the "choice" because I think some feel they have no other choice.


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erinjane
post Jul 25 2006, 12:41 PM
Post #15


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 1,301
From: Winnipeg


I've talked about posting this before, but I wrote my final paper on this subject and I think I'll link to it. It says a lot of what I want to say. Keep in mind it deals ONLY with consensual sex work, and I had a page limit to write it so I barely touched upon certain aspects.

(I will come back later again, but I only had a few moments to jump in now)

Feminist Activism in Sex Work
http://celticdaisy.livejournal.com/70773.html#cutid1


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greenbean
post Jul 25 2006, 12:28 PM
Post #16


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Posts: 954


Wow, okay, this is a verrrry broad topic.
If y'll saw my last post in the 'boys' thread, you know that I dont consider posing/stripping to be sex work, I call that performance or erotic/adult entertainment. To me its only sex work if you are performing sexual acts for money.

I am on the side of that I believe erotic/adult performance/entertainment/web pics CAN be empowering. The human form and human sexuality is a beautiful thing, and it can be very fun and exilerating to participate in exibitionism. I don't think its "just for guys". I've been to burlesque shows where most of the audience is straight women cheering on other straight women. Its fun! And I know performers who dont do it for money, but as a hobby.

But there is another side to it for sure, and most girls/women dont live in freedom and equality lala land like I do, so they have a totally different perspective.


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I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.--John Waters
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jsmith
post Jul 25 2006, 12:06 PM
Post #17


It's Calamity Jenn
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Posts: 643
From: Lone Star State


I second Maddy's definition of sex work. And I would also like to know why exposing oneself on the net/in a club is empowering. I personally don't think it is.
But I really don't think prostitution should be made legal. I can't help but imagine how much worse the sex industry (when I say this, I mean the mainstream, male-dominated) would be if it were.


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Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith. Thomas Jefferson
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maddy29
post Jul 25 2006, 11:56 AM
Post #18


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 934
From: Boston, MA


thanks to ej for starting this thread. i have lots to say but it gets me so worked up and upset that i gotta pace myself

that being said-thanks for the support in the other thread. usually people just dismiss my opinions/feelings because of my past. i do want to try to work out some of this stuff in my head, which i why i really appreciate people talking about it.

i do believe that prostitution should be legal and destigmatized. it would be much safer and more practical ( I doubt most hookers have a 401K or health insurance).

to me, sex work is anything where you are getting paid to let someone look, touch, or do something to your body in a sexual context or manner. (so that people who sit for art classes aren't doing sex work, because it's not a sexual context.) so posing for photos and putting them online and getting money for it, or winning a wet t-shirt contest, or being in a porno, or being a stripper, escort, prostitute, domanatrix, etc. If you are getting paid, and someone is getting off, that's sex work. to me at least.

i have another question-which will probably sound snarky and rude, but i truly don't mean it that way. What is empowering about sexy pics on the web, or stripping, or whatever? I hear that word thrown around a lot, and I don't get what people mean when they say this. I think EJ said it and maybe someone else? I understand that it feels good to show that you can be a non-toothpick and be sexy. but beyond that, i don't get what's powerful about it-isn't it just doing what piggy men want us all to do? pose for them? get them off?

i think the key in all this is: MONEY. it's "easy" money. but isn't that sad that if a woman needs to make a lot of money, selling her sex is the best/only way to go? it's very appealing to think of all that money coming in, but there's so much more to it than that.

more later.
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mermaidgirl13
post Jul 25 2006, 11:47 AM
Post #19


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Posts: 406
From: Boston


I define sex work as stripping, porn or any kind of prostitution.

I would be okay with it from a feminist stand point, if it was what a woman wanted to do. The problems I have with stripping and prostitution are that they aren't safe for women as it is now. Because it's not legal partly. So I feel like anyone who is working as a prostitute now (I say prostitute specifically because strippers are protected from customers by security) is doing so as a last resort. If there were legal protections for prostitutes, I'd be all for women doing it if they wanted to.

The other problem with prostitution as it now is that so many people are trafficked into it. I heard a story about a woman in the Bronx who was forced to prostitute by her husband to pay off his debt. She was arrested and had to spend time in jail for it because there are no laws protecting women or children (or anyone) from the human trafficking that goes on to support the sex industry.

Not sure how I feel about porn actors.
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erinjane
post Jul 25 2006, 11:16 AM
Post #1


Hardcore BUSTie
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Posts: 1,301
From: Winnipeg


One of the touchiest subjects between feminists is the relationship to sex work/porn/stripping/etc. Rather then further derail the Porn and Boys thread (but you can check it out for a bit of background http://www.bust.com/lounge/index.php?showtopic=52071&hl= ) come on in to this thread and share your thoughts.

What do you define as sex work? Are you pro/against? Why? Do you have a background in it, know anyone involved, are you involved? As Pixie asked, Does anyone see it as conforming to the sterotypes that feminists are against? Does it hurt or hinder feminism?
Just a few questions to get us thinking. So throw out some thoughts!

*I'm just running out the door but I wanted to get this going before I left. I'll be back hopefully this evening to throw in some of my opinions.* smile.gif


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