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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

Two weeks ago today I published a guest post by Madison Graham; if you haven’t read it yet, you should do so before proceeding with this one.  I’ve never published a rebuttal to a guest column before, because no one has ever asked me to; however, since the writer of this one, Christina Parreira, is a previous guest columnist herself who is knowledgeable on this subject, I saw no reason to decline her request.  In the future, I will entertain submissions for rebuttals or responses as long as  A) I have reason to believe the respondent knows what she’s talking about; B) the response stays cordial and mostly factual, without opinions clearly expressed as such; and C) the response is submitted in a timely manner, so that I can publish it in the same month as the original if possible.

Since I’m writing this in response to Madison’s article, I think it is important for readers to know how I came to know of Madison, aka DeAnne Holiday (this is not an outing- she uses both names on her Twitter handle).  Approximately 8 months ago, she angrily messaged me on Twitter over something I had tweeted.  I asked management who she was; I was told that she was a former working girl but was not able to book clients, so they gave her a job as publicist so that she could earn a living.  Hence, her Twitter handle of “Angry Publicist”, and she is certainly angry; I do not claim to know why she was let go from the ranch, but I do know that her Twitter feed is a constant and vitriolic campaign against Hof and his working girls.  She is constantly making fun of girls who work for Hof (including jabs at their appearance and disparaging comments about “illegal” work).  She has made remarks about my own life ending soon, even going so far as to claim that I deserve to be strangled.  She accuses Hof of being a rapist and pedophile.  She calls one of the women at Sagebrush a “stupid lazy bitch.”  These are not opinions of mine, but mere facts that can be confirmed by reading her page. (Note from Maggie: her Twitter account was suspended sometime between writing & publication of this column.)

Now, onto her article about Hof and the Odom incident.  It rests on the premise that Hof was the one who called TMZ- this is in the absence of proof.  Nobody actually knows who called TMZ, period.  Also, I’m skeptical of the notion that a man is afforded secrecy when he himself has brought illicit drugs into a legal place of business, and then gets rolled out in an ambulance!  What is a business owner supposed to say when this happens?  Nothing?  Madison states that Lamar will never again get an endorsement deal; this is simply mere speculation.  She also slams Hof for “taking advantage” of the publicity, but it sought him.  Odom almost died at his brothel; that was not a story Hof needed to call the press over!  They were knocking down his door.

Next, she addresses drugs in the brothels, saying she has she’s never seen so many addicts since working in legal brothels, and claiming that women are allowed to continue working with drugs in the house.  I myself have seen drugs in the house; it happens, though not as often as Madison would have you believe (although this is just from my own personal experience).  I have also seen those same girls get fired once it was confirmed that they were using.  She claims they are told to pack up and go to rehab.  In reality, many are fired and never heard of again, while others (my guess is those that have been around a long time and are part of the family, so to speak) have been sent to rehab by Hof himself.  He has told me stories of paying for rehab in hopes that some of these women would stop using.  I think that’s very kind, but let’s not stray too much into opinion-land; let us get back to my observations.  As far as girls too drunk to work, I have never personally seen this, but I imagine it does happen.  What I have seen is girls get cut off before they begin to overdo it, and I remember one woman in particular who had an alcohol problem and was not served alcohol; she was not allowed to drink in the brothel or bring liquor in.  This may seem punitive to some, but it is a place of businesses and she would become unmanageable drunk (from what I heard).  I never saw her drunk behavior, but I did work with her during her drinking ban.

Love RanchMost of the article is Madison giving her opinions, “he has no empathy,” etc.  This is simply straying from facts; did he in fact call TMZ?  The legitimacy of the piece rests on the notion that he did, but that is something we will never know.  What I do know is that Odom brought the drugs himself, and that Nye county is not pressing charges.  By the way, did you know that money from the brothel licenses of Hof’s houses in Nye county go towards maintaining the EMS services which showed up to help Odom?  But what about publicity stunts like Hookers for Hillary?  I agree that was clearly a PR stunt for attention, but remember that Nevada brothels aren’t allowed to advertise by traditional means.  As Hof said to Bill Higgins in the book Nevada Rose: Inside the American Brothel, “I’m over the top, I’m a media whore.  What else can you do when your business can’t advertise?”

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The Divine Whore

Every year on her feast day, I honor St. Mary Magdalene; even though the Church does not officially recognize her as the patron of whores, she certainly is in the public imagination.  And that recognition of sacred whoredom is far more important than any official designation by any organization.

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An Apology

unrung bellEvery writer, especially when first starting out, writes a few things that, on looking back, cause her to say something like “What the Hell was I thinking when I wrote that?”  In fact, there are a LOT of things I wrote my first year that make me feel that way.  However, I’m a big believer in transparency; before the Internet, one couldn’t just “un-publish” embarrassing articles, and I don’t think it’s ethical or even wise to try that now just because one can.  You can’t un-ring a bell, and you can’t unsay hurtful things, and to attempt to do so by shoving mistakes – even ugly ones – down the memory hole is to attempt to rewrite the past, a favorite pastime of censors and tyrants through the ages.  I’m a real, flawed human being, and though I believe racism and bigotry are deeply wrong, sometimes things don’t really come out like I wanted them to.  In September of 2010, I published a post explaining why some sex workers refuse to see black men, and it soon became my most controversial; a lot of people called me a racist and worse because of it, but because I also received a lot of mail from black men thanking me for explaining it (even if they sometimes rightfully chastised me for the crappy, sloppy, careless, insensitive, amateurish, assholish, and unnecessarily hurtful way I expressed it), I’ve always felt it was best to leave it up.  However, the essay has recently become a major bone of contention in the sex worker rights movement, and some people whose opinions and feelings I care deeply about have told me that they are offended or upset by it.  As many of you know or have surmised, I consider loyalty to those I love to be among the highest of virtues, so when a loved one says that something I did – even inadvertently, and even six years ago – hurt her in some way, you can bank on the fact that I’m going to try to correct that in any way I can.  And so, though I know the decision will annoy or upset some people as much as the original essay did, I have decided it’s time to take it down.  I am not doing this in order to pretend it never existed; as I wrote above, I own my mistakes as much as I own my accomplishments.  And even if I wanted it to vanish completely, the internet has made that impossible.  The reason I am doing this is, quite simply, because some people I respect and some people I love and respect asked me to, and that is reason enough for me.   I apologize to any readers who may have been offended by my language, or who may be offended in the future by copies of the essay which exist elsewhere; please believe that any hurt I caused was wholly unintentional.

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This is ridiculous; this cost a lot of money and is tomfoolery.  –  Don O’Neill

pig trickery signOnce again, so-called “liberal” Seattle has demonstrated its deep conservatism, prudishness, hypocrisy and dishonesty by setting up an elaborate entrapment scheme intended to humiliate the clients of sex workers, deprive us of income and produce a severe chilling effect on the market.  Sara Jean Green, who should know better than to believe the anti-whore garbage vomited out by cops, told it this way [with a few corrections from me] in the deeply-prohibitionist Seattle Times:

…members of the Seattle Police Department’s Vice…Unit arrested 204 men during the 10-day operation that began July 5, netting more than $22,000 in cash…“We never anticipated this volume,” [lied] Sgt. Tom Umporowicz [about]…the police-operated Euro Spa, the first sting operation of its kind in the city.  He estimated court fines from the operation — $2,733 for a first-time offender, with repeat offenders paying more — will total at least $550,000.  Formerly known as Bamboo Spa, the business was shut down in May by Umporowicz and his squad…Umporowicz’s [scam artists] posted ads for Euro Spa on backpage.com…For the “average john,” hiring an escort “is a crapshoot … because you don’t know who is going to show up at the door,” Umporowicz said.  Picking up a woman on Aurora Avenue North is also risky since “you could easily get … ripped off and you’re more visible to law enforcement…Most of these guys going to massage parlors think they’re fairly safe”…In many of the vice unit’s earlier stings, men were arrested then released, later receiving summonses in the mail.  But [politicians declared]…that…there should be mandatory jail bookings for men arrested for sexual exploitation.  It’s the relatively new name adopted by the City Attorney’s Office for the misdemeanor crime of what used to be known as patronizing a prostitute.  The hope is that the experience of changing into orange jail garb, being photographed and fingerprinted, and undergoing the jail’s process of verifying names, addresses and phone numbers will serve as a future deterrent…[one] veteran [sleazy sow is referred to]…as “the vice queen.”  Dressed in a tight tank top, a short skirt and four-inch heels, the [sociopath is expert]…in making men comfortable [in order] to [destroy their lives]…“Some guys won’t even hand me the money — they throw it on the bed or they throw it on the floor,” she said.  “It’s degrading…They would never treat their wives or girlfriends or someone they were trying to pick up in a bar like that.”

As usual, the pigs grunt and oink a lot of filthy lies in order to rationalize that their robbery scam is somehow justifiable, and that it serves some constructive purpose other than pleasing busybodies, getting votes for amoral politicians and letting pervert cops (like the sociopathic policewoman described at the end) get their jollies in a massive nonconsensual public humiliation scene.  The lies are so thick and obvious here I’m sure most of y’all can spot them; for example, the pretense that the average client doesn’t “know who is going to show up at the door”, when in fact most modern escorts have websites, reviews and an established online presence.  And the pretense that not directly handing the sex worker the money is “degrading”, when in fact most don’t want the money directly handed to them (in the mistaken belief that this will protect them), is especially vile considering that the police and the prohibitionist laws they enforce are the direct cause of this so-called “degradation”.  Sorry, amateurs; the truth is our clients generally treat us better than they treat women silly enough to give it to them for free, no matter what sickos who get off on pretending to be whores tell you.

But while the cops boast about their contribution to destroying the fabric of society and fascist media companies obediently parrot the propaganda, the faltering “sin and degradation” narrative has lost considerable popularity and stings like this are recognized for what they are by many other journalists:

…KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill…noted that the [Seattle police department] is understaffed by more than 340 officers and they are currently being paid tons of overtime to deal with the recent protests related to shootings around the country…That’s why, to him, the sting was a “colossal waste of time…You pick up the phone and call the police and they’re not coming…because we’re using our man- and women-power to do stuff like this.”  O’Neill said…it’s…an attack on the lives of tech workers and lonely Seattle residents…“there will be divorces over this, families will be embarrassed and they may end up losing their jobs”…

And Tana Ganeva of The Influence wrote:

…Female officers were tarted up in tight clothes and high heels and offered men sexual acts for cash…The sting caught 204 so-called “johns” and netted the department $22,000 in cash.  But that’s only the beginning of the city’s  profiteering…all the court fines…could total $550,000.  And who were these monsters?  They ranged from surgeons to a nurse to bus drivers to a journalist…The operation, of course, is presented as a means to protect exploited women…But…there wasn’t even the pretext of trying to catch johns who were looking to hook up with under-aged or trafficked women…in what business on earth does it benefit workers to have their customers arrested?  As many sex worker activists have pointed out, depleting the customer pool of men who have the most the lose if they get caught makes sex workers’ lives harder and more dangerous…

pigs torturing innocent menAnd there, as the Bard put it, is the rub; well-established escorts with large client bases aren’t going to be affected by this beyond the usual two- or three-week lull that results every time the cops stage one of their high-profile pogroms.  Nor will celebrity whores like me, whom potential clients can verify with a quick Google search.  No, it’s going to be the immigrant women and other marginalized sex workers, those who work in massage parlors, on Backpage or on the street, who will suffer the most from this evil game.  Sex work isn’t going anywhere, no matter what cops, prosecutors and morally-retarded billionaires want you to believe; it fulfills a very real and important social function and new sex workers and clients enter the demimonde every day.  These crusades do nothing but hurt the most vulnerable individuals on both sides of the transaction, just as all prohibition disproportionately harms the most marginalized.  One might think that at a time when the public is beginning to awaken to the realities of overpolicing, public officials would have more sense than to approve of these sadistic spectacles; however, that would assume that said officials aren’t echo-chamber-dwelling narcissists.  The only way to stop this will be for those who approve of it to suffer actual consequences, and that isn’t going to happen until all of you clients out there get off of your duffs and fight.  Regular clients outnumber full-time whores by at least 60 to 1; gentlemen, I suggest you had better rethink your current silence, unless you want to be the next one with your name and picture splashed across newspapers, TV screens and websites.

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Last Friday, Dan Savage tweeted a question he’d received to get the opinion of several sex workers, namely Mistress Matisse, Mike Crawford and me (plus anyone else who cared to chime in).  The question itself is interesting, and I found it fascinating how much the answers diverged.  So although Dan already published the question and answers on his Stranger blog, I’d also like to feature it here:

man courting womanI’d appreciate your thoughts on a matter of sex worker etiquette and social boundaries.  Someone I’d describe as an acquaintance/casual friend recently let me know that she is working as an escort.  I’ve known her for a few years, and have always been more than a little attracted to her.  We dated very briefly when we first met and have had an intermittent friendship in the years since.  We’re close enough to talk about subjects like sex work and our mutually non-judgmental attitudes toward it, though this is someone I bump into fairly rarely—maybe a couple of times a year.  If there’s an appropriate and respectful way to bring up that I’d be interested in her professional services, I’d love to do it in the right way.  Or would you advise me to leave this alone?  We’re well enough acquainted that I could broach the subject in an in-person conversation or by text (as opposed to, say, booking an appointment anonymously and saying “Surprise! Remember me?”).  Any thoughts?  –  Friend In Favor Of Compensating For Benefits

My answer:  It’s a delicate one. If they had never dated I’d say it was pretty straightforward. But as it is she could conceivably feel awkward. My advice: He should tell her he’d like to see an escort and ask if she has any recommendations. Then IF she’s comfortable, she can volunteer her own services, and if not he’ll get a very good recommendation to another.

Matisse:  I personally do not accept people as clients if I’ve been friends with them socially. But that is partly because I’m a dominatrix and some fantasies and D/s rely on a certain level of mystery and distance. Definitely via email, NOT in person. Tell her it’s cool if she doesn’t feel comfortable. And accept it will change things.

Mike Crawford:  “How’s business? Are you taking new clients? Would you be open to seeing me professionally?” Best approach I can think of. As mentioned, the prior relationship could make it awkward. As any client should, if she declines to see him, FIFOCFB should accept that graciously.

Lara Belle:  I would choose one of the zillion other SWs where boundaries are not an issue. The question can be broached: “Are you open to seeing clients who are part of your personal life,” etc., but don’t even go there at all if he expects her to keep it a secret and have a whole range of new pressures forced upon her with her other friends/acquaintances.

Conner Habib:  Yes, he definitely has the right to ask! But I want him to ask himself why he’s asking, too! I’d ask: Out of all the escorts in the world you can hire, you chose one whose boundaries may be problematic for you and would need negotiation. What does that tell you about yourself? Self-investigate & move on.

Rosemary Lashes:  I had a friend ask this of me when I came out and frankly I find it insulting. For me, I want compartmentalization. I do not mix business/clients w friends. It complicates too much, and $ creates power dynamics regardless of intention.

Ava Grace:  Definitely don’t surprise her with a booking without notice. But considering the history of the friendship you can always ask the question. If she’s not ok with it she will say no. And you need to be prepared for and ok with accepting that no if it comes. Good luck.

Daddy’s Princess:  It would be awkward to see him professionally & maintain a friendship.

Melodie Nelson:  Sex -paid for or not-can change relationships. But he should ask simply. No more stigma 1 day.

Sensual Muse:  IMO no on this-personal life is sep from work: 2 mix risks never having down time.  it’s personal I think…just my boundary pref. no clients in personal spaces

Mandy Mitchell:  every SW is different but to me the “used to date” part gets a little dicey, there are plenty of other pros to seek, always

Sophie Darling:  I NEVER EVER mix business into my personal life. Just my MO though…

Buttercream Bombshell:  My view is to face to face express interest politely and let her decide.

Violet Baudelaire:  IF she says yes, he needs to realize that all her normal work rules still apply, even though they know each other.

There were also a good number of conversations on the topic; Matisse especially had some good discussions with a number of the respondents, as you can see by following the links.  It just goes to show you:  everyone’s different, and on matters of sex work etiquette there’s sometimes no one “correct” answer.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Madison Graham is the pseudonym of a sex worker who was working for one of Dennis Hof’s brothels in Nevada; she recently contacted me because of her deep distress over an immense ethical violation Hof committed in the full view of the entire world last autumn.  Here in her own words (edited only for style and brevity) is what she told me.

Dennis Hof, self-promoting buffoonDennis Hof courts the media and has specialized in hijacking news; he takes current relevant stories that have nothing to do with him and finds a way to insert himself into the story.  For example, when Hillary Clinton announced she was running for president, suddenly the Bunny Ranch issued a press release about their working ladies forming a “Hookers 4 Hillary” campaign, a maneuver I am certain did not impress Mrs. Clinton.  When hackers released the names of millions of Ashley Madison members, Hof boasted, “Ashley Madison hacking victims’ privacy would’ve been safe with my prostitutes.”  Hof then launched a media tour to every Morning Zoo style radio show that would have him, focusing on how Ashley Madison should have taken the BunnyRanch’s approach to client privacy and not stored anyone’s information.  He often bragged that “If those guys who are about to have their lives ruined had been meeting beautiful women on BunnyRanch.com instead, their identities would’ve remained completely anonymous…”

No one had reason to question the BunnyRanch’s privacy policy until basketball player Lamar Odom was picked up by an ambulance from Hof’s southern Nevada brothel, Love Ranch Vegas, after being found unconscious in the VIP suite where he’d been staying.  Within minutes, TMZ had the scoop on their website, utterly destroying Lamar’s career; he will never receive another endorsement deal again, and the various children’s charities he has been involved with will distance themselves.  But Hof fed off of Odom’s crisis and milked it as hard as he could, so that he could get his face on TV as much as possible to say “LoveRanch” in front of millions of viewers.  Hof displayed absolutely no empathy, no awareness and certainly no consistency; he contradicted himself in just about every media op he got.  First Lamar didn’t have drugs when he came in, then Hof fired the two girls who were with Lamar because he feared they gave him drugs, then a 180 degree turn to claiming there were no drugs at the Love Ranch.  Well, the truth is I have never seen so many drugs and drug-addicts in my life until I started working in legal brothels; hardly a week goes by without an incident of a lady getting too drunk to work, or the management discovering drug paraphernalia in a lady’s room.  If the lady makes good money, her problem is largely ignored; once she becomes too impaired to make money, she is quickly packed out and told to get herself into a treatment program.  One top earner at the Bunny Ranch was caught over and over with drugs in her room and giving drugs to other girls; eventually cops pulled her over and found drugs in her car and now she is in prison, but when she is released I guarantee she will be returning to the ranch:  She makes a lot of money and America’s Biggest Pimp wants his 50%.

The careless way Lamar’s personal information got out is disturbing because it reaches far beyond surface titillation.  Lamar Odom will never get another endorsement deal ever again – a multi-million dollar loss.  The revelation was a violation of the Hooker Code that is understood by most sex workers:  loose lips sink ships, so you keep your mouth closed.  That is the real reason we make so much money:  it’s for remaining quiet.  But Emperor Hof just couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and now he’s in denial about the severity of repercussions he and his empire are about to incur.  Hof is a defense lawyer’s worst nightmare; he appears to think he is in one big never-ending infomercial for his corporate brothels.  For example, once the Odom news veered away from the brothel and began to focus on the human-interest element, Hof blurted out that if Odom’s wife, Khloe Kardashian, contests the credit card charge, he will sue her because she “has the money”.  What kind of human-being would make such a statement to a grieving wife?  Whether you like her or not, she is clearly suffering and being as supportive as possible to her husband, but all Hof can think about is $ signs and publicity.  Hof is like that semi-lucid grandfather who blurts out the most ridiculous and offensive rubbish and you just sit there in shock, mute with embarrassment for him.

After this, I can’t imagine anyone with real money would walk into one of his establishments; they know they can’t trust Hof’s nonexistent discretion.  And what if Odom, Kardashian or whoever sues the brothel over this?  The suits and reputational damage could destroy all that Hof has created, and this is a shame because whether you may think of Hof’s character, he knows how to run his brothels.  He knows how to train his girls to make money, and to provide a level of service that keeps the clients coming back; the working conditions in his brothels are also better than those in any of his competitors’.  The biggest threat to Hof’s brothels comes from Hof himself, the self-proclaimed “Pimpmaster General”.  Rather than recognizing the danger posed by the Odom situation, Hof truly believes this is the best thing ever to happen to the Love Ranch Vegas (in spite of the onslaught of death threats the employees receive on the phone daily); he thinks this will triple his business.  But the locals are getting restless.  You can sit at a restaurant or saloon and hear the people saying things like “When are they going to close Hof down?”  Public officials are elected and if they don’t give the locals what they want, they won’t be re-elected.  Lamar Odom’s overdose at the Love Ranch Vegas could result in the closure of one or more of Hof’s brothels, and trouble for the entire industry.

Love Ranch signBrothels are an ideal place for men who have been going through a divorce, or breakup, who need to have their ego-stroked a little, feel desirable again.  I consider myself a sexual healer offering a public service.  If a man has a need for sexual intimacy, and he isn’t able to get that from his wife, he has this safe, legal outlet for his needs and when he leaves, nothing follows him home.  He is truly anonymous and there will be no negative consequences from his visit.  A big part of my sales pitch to potential customers during the negotiation was about how his family and friends won’t ever find out…but how can I possibly offer that guarantee now, after Hof blasted one of his guests’ name and secrets all over the media?  I have always said that I wouldn’t work for any other brothel owner, and I still feel that way; as bad as Hof is, he is much better to his employees than the other owners are.  However, I don’t think I can remain working for a man who would do the things he has done.  I may take my chances and go back to working independently and screening out the cops and the creeps.  Or I may return to the work I did before I became an escort, which I left because I burned out.  But that’s fine for me; what about the people who can’t just move over to escorting, such as the cashiers, bartenders and housekeepers?  What about the money Hof’s businesses bring in to an area that isn’t exactly overflowing with other industries?  If Hof continues to destroy the reputation of his businesses in his constant pursuit of publicity and self-aggrandizement, he’s going to hurt a lot of people beside himself and those whose secrets he betrayed.

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Ordinary Men

Not long ago you linked to a piece about what sex workers want from their clients, and I was deeply depressed by it because of the very low bar for client behavior that it seemed to set.  I cannot imagine showing up dirty, nor behaving meanly unless I were greatly provoked.  Is that so terribly unusual?  What is the percentage of clients who are honest and courteous men?  I grew up as a “local” in a coastal resort community, surrounded by wealthy retirees and summer vacationers, and spent several years in retail there.  Some of these people were outright asses, some were oblivious or self-absorbed, and some were kind and interesting people.  Is it really as simple as that?  To some extent, is all service work the same?cartoon guy

In a word, yes.  The clients of sex workers are neither paragons of humanity nor the cartoon villains imagined by prohibitionists; they’re just ordinary men.  I would say that the fraction of them who are really awful is extremely small; the majority are polite and honest, and anything they do to offend is mostly unintentional (born of social awkwardness, poor habits or a bad sense of sexual boundaries and/or practices).  That having been said, it’s a well-known observation that the less a guy pays, the more he wants; girls who charge less probably see a lot more misbehavior than those at a higher price point.  I don’t think that has anything to do with wealthier people having more “class”; you and I both know that rich people are very often boorish, rude and unpleasant, and poor people are very often polite and gracious.  No, I think it has more to do with the fact that the more people pay for things (and that includes experiences), the more they value them; nearly every whore I know has remarked that men who pay here usually treat her much better than those she dated for “free” before starting her career.  Furthermore, I’ve noticed that as I’ve aged, the clients have become much more polite and respectful; part of that may be that older men are on average more mature and better understand how to treat a woman, and part may be that my own presence has developed to the point where it silently demands more respect.  Nobody’s ever done a survey, but I suspect that younger sex workers, inexperienced ones and those who charge less see a lot more misbehavior from clients than older ones, those who charge more and those who have the self-assurance that comes with years of experience.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

 

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