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A Philosophical Exploration of the Common Fear of Sexuality

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A Philosophical Exploration of the Common Fear of Sexuality

Post Number:#1  PostMarch 17th, 2008, 10:49 pm

A Philosophical Exploration of the Common Fear of Sexuality
by Scott Hughes

The recent events with former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned after it became known he had hired a prostitute, represents a common occurrence. People generally seem to have an obsession with stories of sexual scandal and tragedy. Even relatively innocuous acts, such as hiring an expensive hooker, get turned into huge scandals by a general public that likes to indulge in feelings of horror and disgust at sexual acts.

I have no problem with the downfall of hypocrites like Eliot Spitzer, Ted Haggard, and Jim Bakker. But the stories of those hypocritical men's downfalls would not have gained so much intensity without people's obsession with stories about sexual scandal—an obsession which apparently comes from people's fear and hatred of sex.

Throughout history, most societies have developed a predominant fear and hatred of sex. They make sexuality into a taboo, including sexual acts such as masturbation, nudity, prostitution, homosexuality, and almost any other sexual act not happening between married people for the purpose of procreation.

But why do the people in our society tend to have such negative feelings towards sexuality? Why do so many cultures throughout the globe fear and hate sex?

The commonness of erotophobia (the fear of sexuality) seems counter-intuitive because humans have such a natural desire for sex. Thanks to evolution, humans naturally find sex pleasurable. Sex is fun, pleasurable, and stress-relieving.

So why all the fear and hatred? Let me posit a few possible explanations.

Political Power – Throughout most of human civilization, small groups of men have an obvious economic incentive to dominate other people. Simply put, exploitation is profitable. The political establishment in most societies may have found it difficult to dominate free-spirited people who joyfully engage in natural, powerful pleasures such as sex and playfulness. In a manner of speaking, the powerfulness of sex competed with the power of those who wished to control society. That also may explain why so many religious organizations originally incorporated erotophobia into their dogma.

Psychological Projection – Projection may also help explain why many people get so worked up over consenting adults having sex. Many people, especially those with perversions, may think of their own sexual desires as harmful or shameful. As a result, they will often suppress the desires, deny the desires, and then project the desires onto others. This could also be described as a method of taking suppressed feelings of self-disgust and releasing them into hatred and disgust for others. For example, consider the correlation between homophobia and homosexuality--famously exemplified by Ted Haggard who publicly condemned homosexuality while secretly having it. Also, it stands to reason that projection would have a mutually causal relationship with erotophobia. In other words, when social norms make people feel ashamed and disgusted by their own sexual emotions, then those people may transfer their feelings of disgust towards other people's sexuality, which in turn will lead to more erotophobia and create a vicious cycle.

Insecurity and Patriarchy – The historical pervasiveness of patriarchy may have also contributed to the taboo of sex. In their attempts to dominate women, men probably feared the sexual power that women had. Men have also behaved in a notoriously insecure way, and their insecurity can become amplified when rejected by women. Some powerful men's insecurity over their own sexuality may have led to antipathy towards their own sexuality which may have led to antipathy towards sexuality in general.

Fear of the Dangers – Erotophobia may come from a fear of the dangers of sexuality. For one, people may fear becoming the victim of sexual crime, or of just being used or objectified by someone else. Additionally, people may fear the personal dangers of indulging in sex, such as STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and addiction. Practicing safe sex has mostly made the issues of STDs and unwanted pregnancies moot. (Ironically, erotophobia makes it more difficult to promote the use of safer sex.) Fear of addiction may help explain why people still fear sexuality. This fear perhaps makes the most sense. People can become addicted by indulging too much in any pleasurable activity, especially intense activities conducive to overindulgence such as sex, gambling, unhealthy eating, playing video games and so on and so forth. (It seems misguided to me to fear the activity out of fear of addiction. It is immoderation that leads to addiction, not the pleasurable activity. And it is immoderation we need to fear, not pleasure. ) So maybe a misguided fear of pleasure, stemming from a reasonable fear of addiction, helps cause erotophobia.

Whatever the reason, our society fears and hates sexuality. Ironically, erotophobia probably exacerbates any perceived problem with sexuality.

Even with so much erotophobia, sex still happens and is very likable, but we can only imagine how much more sex could offer in a world that didn't treat it like such a horrible evil.

What do you think? Why do you think sexuality has become such a taboo? Why do you think some people get so worked up about the sexual habits of consenting adults?
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Post Number:#2  PostMarch 17th, 2008, 11:30 pm

well when it comes to prostitution (in mr. spitzers case) i feel that it might be a sign of insecurity in him. What people forget is that they have needs too. Drugs and alcohol are separate from sex when it comes to addiction. I'm sure problems involving alcohol hit closer to home with the public - IE; they can relate to it more.

If a public figure was struggling with drugs it isn't considered as horrible because people have come to understand that drug problems are big problems.
Sex (with prostitutes - or cheating on your spouse), on the other hand, is something not everybody relates to. Sex is something we like and i don't think people relate it to an addiction as much as other things. Succumbing to the need (or want) of sex can make someone look like they're unfit for a certain thing. Such as being a senator... or president...

My guess.
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Re: A Philosophical Exploration of the Common Fear of Sexual

Post Number:#3  PostMarch 28th, 2008, 3:46 pm

Scott wrote:Political Power – Throughout most of human civilization, small groups of men have an obvious economic incentive to dominate other people. Simply put, exploitation is profitable. The political establishment in most societies may have found it difficult to dominate free-spirited people who joyfully engage in natural, powerful pleasures such as sex and playfulness. In a manner of speaking, the powerfulness of sex competed with the power of those who wished to control society. That also may explain why so many religious organizations originally incorporated erotophobia into their dogma.


When i saw your quote in this paragraph (iv'e bolded it) it got me to thinking...

Why exactly is moderation so important? Isn't that what somebody in a position of political power would like us to believe? Wouldn't truly "free spirited people," want to indulge in sexuality at their whim, without care, if only to express their free will against people who want to control them with talk of moderation? You would think that a person would want to indulge, as much as they can into some thing that is both "natural" and "powerful," especially if that jeprodizes or creates a loss of power, for that small elite who tend to have it, most of the time.

what im saying, is that in this case, what good is moderation?
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Post Number:#4  PostMarch 31st, 2008, 2:17 am

MarkE, you make a good point about people relating more sympathetically to seemingly bigger problems such as drug and alcohol addiction than problems stemming from something seen as more normal like sex.

morning_glow, I think moderation is relative. Generally speaking, moderation means not indulging too much or too little into any given indulgence. But how much is too much or too little depends on what it is and the circumstances. There may be some activities that one can't do too much and/or can't do too little--meaning they can't be done immoderately. Overall, I think I would say moderation is generally wise, but what some people say is immoderate or moderate amount of any given activity may be incorrect. What do you think?
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Post Number:#5  PostMarch 31st, 2008, 3:10 pm

Scott:

Yes, I would agree with moderation being relative. I think the concept works best when moderation is completely relative. For instance, if an artist wants to drink themselves to death (a serious physical addiction), how far can you go in forcibly trying to change their values (by whatever means, to alter the course of their addictions), until they are no longer the person they used to be, and you have altered the course of their destiny. If a person wants to dedicate their lives to expressing themselves artistically, maybe their lives are better spent fullfilling their own true goals; acheiving their own vision of happiness, even if in the process they may be purposely, physically destroying themselves. How much influence can you have into the lives other human beings who have thier own truths, constitutions, worldviews, and destinies. Maybe there are some people you simply can not put restrictions on. Structure and moderation, are conceptually important, but the wisdom of your choices, I would say, is determined by the kind of person you are; and these things will both define moderation as it applies to you and your life.

That's how I would look at this problem lately. What do you think? At which point do you think we should be able to intervene into the lives of others? Is it fair? Is there such a thing as absolute wisdom, or can we only hope to acheive personal wisdom, for our own, very unique, personal existances?
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Post Number:#6  PostApril 1st, 2008, 2:25 pm

That's how I would look at this problem lately. What do you think? At which point do you think we should be able to intervene into the lives of others? Is it fair? Is there such a thing as absolute wisdom, or can we only hope to acheive personal wisdom, for our own, very unique, personal existances?


Hello, I'm new and I found this interesting discussion. I thought I might contribute. I think we can with reasonable certainty assume that human beings are genetically hardwired to intervene into the lives of others. However, this occurs with varying degree, depending on the depth of our relationships with others and the specific personality type we possess. Some people are predisposed to actively participate in other peoples lives, while others prefer to keep to themselves. And though these predispositions may change over time, as we are exposed to the societal boundaries placed upon us through experience, the degree to which we intervene is determine in part by these factors and in part by our social training.

To address your question regarding the threshold at which intervention becomes necessity: I believe that there is an unwritten contract that exists in interpersonal relationships that mitigates the exchange of interests and values between individuals. Over time, the contract may be revised through interpersonal struggle (i.e. arguments, disputes, misunderstandings) or even dissovled (the end of a relationship. The same contract applies at the group level, provided that the individuals share a common identity (same country, company, club etc.). Many organizations have attempted to write the terms of the contract down on paper (the constitution). When this contract is extended to higher organizational level, the degree of complexity increases due to the number of individuals involved. There is eventually a point at which concurrence among every individual is not possible and voting systems are put into place. True fairness will never be achieved. At this point, I believe it is the responsibility of the individual the find a place where he feels most comfortable with the terms of the social contract.

So the degree to which we should intervene into the lives of others is determined by this unwritten contract, the terms of which are created by the individuals involved. When the contract is breached, an individual must decide for himself whether he wishes the renegotiate or move on to a new contract.
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Post Number:#7  PostApril 1st, 2008, 3:14 pm

morning_glow wrote:Scott:That's how I would look at this problem lately. What do you think? At which point do you think we should be able to intervene into the lives of others? Is it fair? Is there such a thing as absolute wisdom, or can we only hope to acheive personal wisdom, for our own, very unique, personal existances?

About intervening, I would almost never support forcefully intervening even if we believe the person is being immoderate and causing harm to themselves. For the most part, I would support intervening only to stop a person from hurting other people against those other people's will. When in doubt, I suggest not intervening, mainly for the reason you seem to be implying which is that our values are not necessarily any more correct than another person's values and beliefs so let's let each person act according to their own values and beliefs (as long as they do not hurt anyone else).

Even socially, as a rule of thumb, I would encourage tolerance to other people's choices even when they differ from our own values. By that, I mean to suggest that we reduce how much we get mad at or look down upon those who make choices which we see as immoderate or self-hurtful. But there are times when it makes sense to not be tolerant, especially when there is a social contract of some sorts, as Kaa325 points out. For example, I bet most of us would agree that there is generally nothing unwise or unfair about a wife demanding that her husband do something she thinks is in his own interest (e.g. stop drinking alcohol, eat healthier, etc.).
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Post Number:#8  PostApril 2nd, 2008, 2:30 pm

Scott wrote:I would almost never support forcefully intervening even if we believe the person is being immoderate and causing harm to themselves. For the most part, I would support intervening only to stop a person from hurting other people against those other people's will. When in doubt, I suggest not intervening, mainly for the reason you seem to be implying which is that our values are not necessarily any more correct than another person's values and beliefs so let's let each person act according to their own values and beliefs (as long as they do not hurt anyone else).

Even socially, as a rule of thumb, I would encourage tolerance to other people's choices even when they differ from our own values. By that, I mean to suggest that we reduce how much we get mad at or look down upon those who make choices which we see as immoderate or self-hurtful.


yes, I would agree entirely. Once somebody is at risk of endangering another persons life, I would draw the line. I also definately agree that we get far to upset when we think that other peoples choices are "immoderate or self-hurtful." But that's a mindset that a person has to be consciously willing to change. I think it should be considered just another one of our responsibilities, as we get older, to come into our own with our own values and beliefs, and in that way come to respect other peoples as their own; not to pretend that we are born into a world of absolutes, with only one path and ideal to strive for. (ei. house, kids, job, ect.) Definately, not enough emphasis is put on this, and I'm starting to think that I may be taking this mindset for granted, lol!

Kaa325: What's up, yeah, I'm new also!

So, you're saying that we have a predisposition towards intervening, but either it or the degree of it is subject to change as our life roles change, and we are socialized. How do we have a predisposition, or are you saying that it's innate, this need we have to intervene into other peoples lives? Is it something we will always have to repress, if our predisposition changes, or over the course of our lives we are socialized to tone that need down?

You also say, that you can intervene when you become identified with a person or group, and are making reference to the social contract on a much smaller scale (ie. the relationship between two people, vs the much large relationship we share with all of society). So then, we tacitly consent to other people intervening in our lives the second we desire to reach out to another human being. This is like saying, you should not bother reaching out to another person unless you are prepared to willingly consent to their having a stake in your being. Don't you think that what constitute 'you' is too sacred, that your dreams, your identity, your destiny, or your potential for finding meaning in your life is too much at risk when it now becomes expected of you, and your responsibiltiy even to derail the course your life is taking to satissfy a contract? That makes letting new people into your life a very risky business! From this point of veiw, from the moment we are born we are very deeply accountable to other people and their terms.

"There is eventually a point at which concurrence among every individual is not possible and voting systems are put into place."
If concurrence on a larger scale is not always possible because of the size of society, then on a more manageble scale, a two people relationship for instance, you are saying that concurrence is necessary? This limits people to accept the intervention of others if they are to even venture into the civilized world to make contact!

Hope I'm not coming off too picky, I don't actually completely disagree! This is just a very interesting topic to discuss.
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Post Number:#9  PostApril 3rd, 2008, 12:15 am

How do we have a predisposition, or are you saying that it's innate, this need we have to intervene into other peoples lives? Is it something we will always have to repress, if our predisposition changes, or over the course of our lives we are socialized to tone that need down?


I'm saying that these predispositions are innate behavioral tendencies. To further define intervention, it can be as simple as approaching a stranger to say hi to them, or as extreme as forcing something upon them against their will. The tendencies range from person to person and are possibly governed to a certain extent by genetic inheritances. In other words, the urge to intervene is the urge to be social, or to have human contact.

An interesting characteristic of the mind is that it can be easily trained. So over the course of our lives, our predispositions don't change, but can be conditioned or even completely ignored depending on the extent to which we are socialized. A caveat to this illumination is the fact that choice plays a factor in our socialization, which is the prerequisite for the unwritten social contract.

So then, we tacitly consent to other people intervening in our lives the second we desire to reach out to another human being. This is like saying, you should not bother reaching out to another person unless you are prepared to willingly consent to their having a stake in your being. Don't you think that what constitute 'you' is too sacred, that your dreams, your identity, your destiny, or your potential for finding meaning in your life is too much at risk when it now becomes expected of you, and your responsibiltiy even to derail the course your life is taking to satissfy a contract?


I hope with my clearer definition of intervention, the stakes this kind of contact become less troubling. I do agree that we "tacitly consent to other people intervening in our lives," but the degree to which they intervene is governed by the contract. The contract is established immediately, through body language, diction, and other forms of communication.

One is not obligated to reveal his dreams, identity, or destiny in a new situation. Over time, that contract is revised, when new information is revealed and the parties involved are comfortable with each other. It is in a sense an ever-changing contract.

And remember, because we have choice, everyday we continue to interact with that person, we have chosen to stay in the contract. When we decided that pursuing a future relationship is no longer worthwhile and cut contact with the person, we have chosen to terminate the contract.

If concurrence on a larger scale is not always possible because of the size of society, then on a more manageble scale, a two people relationship for instance, you are saying that concurrence is necessary? This limits people to accept the intervention of others if they are to even venture into the civilized world to make contact!


Concurrence is absolutely necessary for a relationship to exist. When there is a conflict, the contract must be revised until there is concurrence. This is why there are disputes, arguments, and disagreements between couples. It is only when an agreement has been reached that arguments and disputes dissolve. Thus the contract has been revised.

Yes, I believe that we are limited to accepting the intervention of others to make contact in the world. Consider the baby who must succumb to the care and limitations of the parent. When we chose not to interact, we have chosen not to live. This is also an option. It's called suicide.
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Re: A Philosophical Exploration of the Common Fear of Sexual

Post Number:#10  PostJanuary 30th, 2011, 10:26 pm

Scott wrote:Whatever the reason, our society fears and hates sexuality. Ironically, erotophobia probably exacerbates any perceived problem with sexuality.


Since you said "our society," I have to disagree with this statement. The majority of television, movies, and music (in other words, the media, a huge influence on our society) portrays marital and extramarital sex as normal and healthy.

Even with so much erotophobia, sex still happens and is very likable, but we can only imagine how much more sex could offer in a world that didn't treat it like such a horrible evil.


Sex certainly is not a horrible evil, and I often hear people accuse Christians of treating it thus. Christians (because Christianity is the only religion I on which I can speak knowledgeably about this subject) believe it is meant to be a deep expression of love and a pleasurable mode of procreation in the proper context of marriage. The practical reasoning is generally that married couples possess the commitment necessary to avoid the negative physical and emotional ramifications often characteristic of promiscuity and to provide the best type of home environment for children. On a more spiritual level, sex would have been created by God as a physical manifestation of the intimacy experienced in marriage, which was also created by God in order to mirror His love relationship with human beings. Anything outside of this context would be a distortion of the original intent.

What do you think? Why do you think sexuality has become such a taboo? Why do you think some people get so worked up about the sexual habits of consenting adults?


I think society is obsessed with sex, generally because sex may be the way some people to attempt to satisfy the need for intimacy and love. With an abominable divorce rate, loving romantic relationships are a rarity. Sex is a necessary component of a marriage, but it is not itself sufficient for a good relationship.

Many people will think I am bigoted because I think sex belongs in marriage.

Bigot: a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

I tolerate (tolerate: to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hindrance; permit--I won't force you to agree with me) the opposing opinion, but I do not agree with it, just as many do not agree with me. Sorry if that was slightly off-topic, but I believe it will soon become relevant in this discussion. :wink:
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.~C.S. Lewis
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Post Number:#11  PostJanuary 31st, 2011, 6:13 pm

My question, with regards to political/sexual "scandals" is always, "Why is this any of the public's business?"

Perhaps this man is not very good at marriage (though that's between him and his wife, and I know a few women who would prefer their husbands dally with professionals, rather than risk losing their marriages due to extra-marital emotional attachments...) but how does being a bad husband translate (apparently automatically) to being a poor politician?

Yes, he (probably--I know a some couples who didn't promise sexual fidelity to their spouses, and have been happily married for a few decades) broke a promise he made to his wife during their marriage ceremony, but he's a politician. Anyone who really expects such folks to keep their promises, probably isn't old enough to vote, anyway...
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Post Number:#12  PostFebruary 2nd, 2011, 11:12 pm

Keith Russell wrote:My question, with regards to political/sexual "scandals" is always, "Why is this any of the public's business?"

Perhaps this man is not very good at marriage (though that's between him and his wife, and I know a few women who would prefer their husbands dally with professionals, rather than risk losing their marriages due to extra-marital emotional attachments...) but how does being a bad husband translate (apparently automatically) to being a poor politician?

Yes, he (probably--I know a some couples who didn't promise sexual fidelity to their spouses, and have been happily married for a few decades) broke a promise he made to his wife during their marriage ceremony, but he's a politician. Anyone who really expects such folks to keep their promises, probably isn't old enough to vote, anyway...


People love to point fingers and exploit the 'unlucky one' as I call it. The 'unlucky one' is the person who is caught doing what everybody else does. Everybody does it because it is the norm for the new generation, but the remnants of the old generations (taboo/negativity) towards the subject makes people hide it. When one is caught, you point fingers so you get take the spotlight off of yourself. It is quite irrational.. but society does not run rationally; it is simply a set up for the sheeple to serve the elite and create the immoral power imbalance... and those who do not conform to the norms (being caught=failing to hide it; hiding it is the norm) will be torn apart by the programmed, irrational sheeple.
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Post Number:#13  PostFebruary 3rd, 2011, 12:47 am

I find this topic interesting because whenever this type of scandal breaks in the media, I often find I am indifferent toward the "scandal" and my wife will be disgusted with the behavior demonstrated by the person being reported on.

Is there an argument for a gender based moral judgement based on some insecurity or feelings of inequality?

:?:
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Post Number:#14  PostFebruary 3rd, 2011, 7:47 pm

Your'e right, Kaa325. This is a very interesting topic -- and very educational. I finally understand the Libertarians. I may join them. I especially like that part about them having the right to make wonderful sex!

The Libertarian views expressed in this forum, compared to most such expressions in these forums, are restrained and conditional -- almost uncertain.. Without realizing it, the authors of these views may be looking for the nearest exit from Libertarianism. The may just not have a better place to go.

As a general rule, the Libertarian proclaims his (or perhaps God,s) ownership of his/her body. This, s/he says, gives him/her the exclusive right to do whatever he wants so long as it doesn't hurt another person. Various philosophers have pointed out several weaknesses in this theory. I particularly dislike it's Tea Party arrogance and exclusivity -- its total lack of sympathy for fellow man.
There is an alternative, a door out of the ethical quandry of Libertarianism. It's called Rational Ontology and Qualified Care Ethics.

Rational Ontology says that human beings are best understood in terms of their historical and contemporary relationships with other persons, rather than as fundamentally separate and isolable from one another. This is a more complicated concept than the idea of ownership. It's harder to picture. Persons are what they are because of their relationships with one another. These relationships are a mixture,some positive and some negative.

Care Ethics is superior to Libertarianism but, like most things in life, requires moderate handling. Because of its reliance upon a relational ontology, its misapplication could even lead to problems that libertarianism can arm us to deal with. It is well-known that caregivers can give too much, that they can care excessively for intimate others who are abusive in return or simply refuse to learn to care for themselves when they could. While a strict libertarianism would say each of us owes another person nothing unless there is a prior agreement or promise, a flawed care perspective can lead to the view that we have duties to others that do not stand up under rational examination. Obviously, a care perspective that has the capacity to determine the limits of appropriate care is superior to one that does not have such resources. Libertarianism can suggest some of these limits, but so can principles of justice in other theories, such as John Rawls' difference principle."

What do you think?
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Post Number:#15  PostFebruary 4th, 2011, 12:50 am

Dewey wrote:What do you think?

I think there is a necessary difference between private and public morality and I think you may be conflating the two in your criticism of libertarians. In other words I think that the libertarians are right in that public policy should aim at the freedom of the individual, but they are wrong if they allow the limits of public policy to stand for the limits of their own private morality. To give an example relating to the topic of this thread: the government should not make pornography a crime even though it offends the sensibilities of some, because protecting those people from being offended is not within the reasonable limits of a policy-maker's power, nor should it be; but, privately, we should avoid offending others or exposing them to pornography if they do not wish to be exposed to it because that is the right thing to do, morally speaking. In fact, if someone is being harmed in some way by, for example, an addiction to pornography, even if there is no place for public policy to intervene (which indeed there isn't, and policy-makers should mind their own business in such a case), we should still privately make every effort to intervene if we think it the right thing to do. But I strongly believe there should be strict limits to public power, even when those limits conflict with moral obligations that I feel I have towards others.

(PS. I am not a libertarian, I just play one on the Internet.)
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