Commentary on “The Man in the Middle”

The premise of this story is that a man, Mark, who has been divorced for five years, receives an email from his narcissistic ex-wife asking that he consider re-marrying her. That she is now married to someone else is no obstacle. She is bored with her current husband and will happily divorce him if Mark will take her back.

Instead of blowing her off, Mark decides to have some fun. He creates two email accounts, one in her name and one in her husband’s. He uses these to put words in her mouth, making her promise to perform a variety of sexual acts for her husband; and to elicit the husband’s reactions.

He emails the wife directly to force her to fulfil those promises by telling her, first that he will not consider re-marrying her unless he proves that she can be a good wife to her current husband; and second, that her husband will abandon her if she disappoints him.

Using his power as “the man in the middle”, he greatly enhances their sex life. In the end, the ex-wife has become sufficiently satisfied with her current marriage that she drops the idea of remarrying Mark. He hands off his role as facilitator to a simple computer program that continues to feed suggestions to the wife and husband through the fake email accounts.

This should have been a much better story than it was.

The premise was good. I like the idea that an unforgiving ex-husband could, by remote control, use his ex-wife’s current husband as a proxy to use and degrade her. And I really like the idea that she is masochistic enough to enjoy being used and degraded. In that way, she’s my kind of woman.

Incidentally, the concept of “a man in the middle” comes from a method of attacking encrypted computer communications. A program that spoofs the communications link in both directions is inserted into a network. Even the strongest public key encryption can be compromised by a man-in-the-middle attack. It amused me to demonstrate the concept in a porn story.

I also like the characters in this story. The ex-wife is based on a real person. People who are that neurotic really exist. The woman that I know is just as narcissistic, manipulative, and masochistic as I describe. And she really did get in touch with her ex-husband after five years and expect him to come running back to her because she was so desirable, even though she had kept him virtually celibate for most of their three-and-a half-year marriage.

Furthermore, I can attest that men who are as dull and unimaginative as her husband are a dime a dozen. Some men wouldn’t know what to do if a woman put a paddle in his hand, bent over a table, and raised her skirt unless she also included written instructions.

So, in this story, I put those two characters together. And I gave him written instructions.

The reason that the story was not very good was that I did not write it well. At any level. The grammar was weak, the writing lacked wit, the point of view was inconsistent, and the final resolution dull.

I think that part of the problem was that I was too close to the subject matter. I was in a hurry to just get it down on paper and get it over with. For exactly that reason, I’m unlikely to ever go back and fix it.

I did experiment a little with this story. I included no dialogue whatsoever. I didn’t even include the emails, only provided a description of them. It was an interesting exercise, but did not make for a good story.

As well, I tried to write a pornographic story that had no explicit descriptions of sexual acts. I included only descriptions of instructions and the reactions of the characters afterward. The actual sex was twice removed from the story.

I think that would have worked if I had written it better. Porn requires a lot of sex but I’m not sure it requires so much explicit description. By now, I’m getting tired of writing yet another description of the same old lusty scenes and I suspect that most of my readers are getting tired of reading them. I know that when I read porn, I skip over a lot of the anatomical and biological descriptions if they last more than a couple of sentences.

If I were to re-write this story, I would write it as an epistolary narrative. It would be nothing but the emails themselves and would include no other prose. The trick would be to ensure that there was a lot of description in the emails, but I think that could be done easily enough.

It should be written as a knee-slapping, side-splitting comedy. If I were as good as Shakespeare and not so personally involved with the characters, I might be able to pull it off.

Sadly, I have to admit that I’m no Shakespeare. To paraphrase Dirty Harry, “A writer’s got to know her limitations.”

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “The Whore-for-a-Day Game”

I doubt that many who read this story are old enough to remember the TV show, “Queen for a Day”, which was one of the first big prize giveaway shows and could be considered the forerunner to modern reality television. In that show, women were invited to tell their sob stories about how tough their lives were and the audience’s applause selected the saddest case, who was then declared the queen, given a crown, and showered with gifts.

In this story, Leslie, my inveterate masochistic backgammon player, devises her own game based on an ironic twist to “Queen for a Day”. Beginning with a sob story from her husband about his unhappiness with their married life – mostly because he doesn’t get enough sex from her – she offers to make herself his personal whore for a day. He will be showed with gifts of sex; Leslie has no aspirations to be a queen.

She will roll a dice but not look at the outcome. That unknown number will be her quota for the number of times that she must make her husband orgasm in twenty-four hours. If she fails to make her quota, she will submit to four hours of severe punishment. Thus, she has a strong incentive to seduce her husband as often as she can, up to a maximum of six times, before the following morning.

She does this by role playing a variety of prostitutes, including a first-time amateur, a call girl from an escort service, an internet sex entrepreneur, a lounge hooker, a street walker, and a strung-out crack whore. Thus, the first and largest part of this story is a simple series of sexual situations, each devised to be as different from the others as possible.

She fails to seduce her husband the final time. Maybe he’s not that enthralled with her desperate crack-whore act. When the dice is revealed, against the odds, to be a six, she has failed to meet her quota and is subjected to horrible punishment of her own design. She gives her husband a sealed envelope labeled “How to Punish a Lazy Whore” – more irony because Leslie has been anything but lazy. The use of a sealed envelope is a clear reference back to the first three stories in this series in which she used the same device to communicate her fate to her male torturers.

In this case, she is subjected to tortures that might be used by pimps to punish their whores. She is whipped with a wire coat hanger, sodomized with a cucumber, has her genitals rubbed with a peeled jalapeño pepper, is dumped outside of town half-naked, made to perform oral sex outdoors, and robbed of the money that she needs to buy her freedom. This part of the story satisfies the BDSM requirement in spades.

The most interesting part of this story for me was imagining six different ways that a woman could act like a whore on the theory that trying to do the same thing every time would risk boring her husband and fail to arouse him. It is not accidental that, as the day wears on, she is working her way down the social hierarchy of different kinds of prostitutes, ending with the lowest and most desperate.

There is a story that President Coolidge was touring a government farm with his wife. She noticed a rooster mating and was told that the rooster did that dozens of times every day. She told the farmer to tell that to Mr. Coolidge. His reply was to ask “Same hen every time?” When the farmer said that it was a different hen every time, he said, “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

The phenomenon that males of almost any mammalian species will mate more frequently with different partners than with the same one every time has been dubbed the “Coolidge Effect.”

Leslie knew that she had to act like six different women to take advantage of the Coolidge Effect to arouse her husband as often as possible.

When she failed in the end, the punishments were imaginative enough, but were the kind of thing that I’ve written for Leslie too often in the past. I worry that I’m going to run out of ideas. For me, the most interesting part of that section was when it wandered away from Leslie’s script – her husband robbed her and then forced her to scramble to find one last way to give him sexual satisfaction and finally earn her freedom.

In all of the stories about Leslie, she lives in constant fear that her male accomplices will not understand her limits and try to generalize their sadistic treatment beyond the context of her games to her daily life. But, somewhat hypocritically, she always pushes men in that direction to test them. That is one of her least endearing traits.

At the end of this story she promise to give her husband more frequent sex. But she clearly distinguishes between real sex and the role playing that she did in her game. He will have to be satisfied with the real thing. She gives him a final sealed envelope, suggesting that she should be punished if she fails to honor her promise.

More than one reader expressed a desire to know what punishment was contained in that final envelope. I’m pretty certain that if her husband ever opens it, he’ll find that it says, “You moron. You don’t punish your wife. You’re supposed to love her.” Leslie has always been adamant that she is only punished in the context of losing games of chance, not in real life. Allowing herself to be punished as part of her marriage would be completely out of character for her. I hope that her husband already understands that the final envelope is a symbol of her promise and not an invitation to abuse. With Leslie, everything is a test.

Like Leslie, I believe that games should be played as games and not confused with real life. No good can come of trying to intermix the two.

This story makes a point that I’ve made many times in previous stories – that women underestimate the importance of regular sex is their marriages. Sometimes you do it for the sake of the marriage, not just for yourself. And, when you do it for the sake of the marriage, you still have to make it as enjoyable for your husband as you can. But that does not mean that a wife must degrade herself by acting like a porn star or prostitute for him. The husband has to be satisfied with good, basic, honest sex.

My biggest concern about pornography, including my own stories, is that it creates a wildly unrealistic picture of what sex should be between two loving people. I trust that my readers can maintain the distinction between fantasy and reality in their own lives.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “A Most Surprising Date”

Those who have read more than a few of my stories will be aware that I’m quite fond of basing my plots on games of one sort or another. There’s something about setting rules that must be followed that appeals to me.

I’ve also included an experimental test of a hypothesis about human psychology – another theme that I enjoy.

In this story, a man, Roy, has met a woman, Felicity, and she has invited him to her home for dinner – an unexpectedly intimate first date, suggesting that she wants a sexual interlude with Roy.

But, when he arrives, he discovers that he is not alone. Two other men, Stan and Timothy have also been invited. Three men and one woman is either going to be a platonic evening of conversation or or a kinky ménage à quatre.

After serving dinner, Felicity reveals that she expects neither. She will spend the night making love to only one of the men. But it is up to the men to decide among themselves which it will be; she has no preference. They have a deadline – if they cannot decide within an hour, they must all leave and she will spend the night alone.

She is amused to watch them struggle with the problem. She has selected the men to be different: Roy is an intellectual; Stan a manager; and Timothy an athlete. Timothy wants a straightforward physical competition while Stan tries to trick the other two. Roy referees the discussion and suggests more equitable solutions that the others reject out of hand.

Felicity, to avoid being raped as the men grow more frustrated, reveals that she is wearing a chastity belt and will give the key to the winner. To reassure the men that she will stay and honor her promise, chains herself in one corner of the room.

When the men cannot reach an agreement, they leave the apartment. Roy, though, has planned for this event and finally outwits the other two, winning the woman. She is willing and eager to spend the night with him.

This story began with the idea that men are more attractive to women when they can successfully interact with other men and defeat them in competition.

I believe that this is true, so, in my story, a psychology graduate student has decided to test this hypothesis on herself, reasoning that she will be happy to sleep with a man who proves himself superior to other men in an unstructured competition. In the story, it works because, after the game has ended, she continues her relationship with the winner long past the night of the surprising date.

This is an entire courtship compressed into a single evening. Or, an allegory of courtship compressed into a short story.

The chastity belt that Felicity is wearing is reasonable. The additional bondage – her locking herself in manacles – was gratuitous. It was mostly added so that I could claim that this story was BDSM pornography. It doesn’t work all that well because it is obviously silly for Felicity to render herself physically vulnerable to a group of strange men.

Felicity is one of the few women in my stories who is not a masochist, merely a slightly reckless adventurer. I like her for that.

As well, I had to devise a reason for the men to reject a quick, simple game of chance – drawing lots, flipping coins, or cutting cards – to choose who gets the woman. In reality, I believe that the men would have fallen back on that as a last resort rather than leaving her untouched for the night.

These flaws are relatively minor and I think that the story works well enough despite them.

Though the story is told in the third person, the focus is clearly on Roy as the protagonist. He is treated more sympathetically than the others, reflecting my personal preference for intellectual people over jocks and managers.

I tried to make this story a fun romp and hope that my readers enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “Topper”

Flash fiction, sometimes called “postcard fiction” is the art of writing a story in a limited number of words. Hemingway famously answered a challenge to write a story in six words. His story (“For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”) is a tour de force. The rest of us, not being quite as talented, settle for 250, 500, or 750 words.

“Topper” at 722 words, is loquaciously self-indulgent by postcard standards, but I couldn’t bring myself to make it any shorter. I find it tough to write short.

Within my self-imposed 750 word limit, I described a dinner party hosted by Clement and Julia for his employee, Josh and his wife, Kelly. Clement is a jerk, humiliating his wife by telling Josh how she accommodates him sexually. When Josh has heard all that he can take, he puts Clement in his place by showing him what an accommodating wife really looks like. He orders Kelly to accept a whipping with his belt, forces her to admit that she will do anything sexually for him, and then orders her to leave with him, presumably to use her sexually when they get home. The twist in the story is that Kelly is the top in their relationship. She behaves as a perfect submissive bottom in front of Clement and Julia, but Josh knew from the outset that he will be punished severely when they get home. That’s the real reason that he has to leave with with his wife immediately.

A twist at the end – in this case, when it is revealed that Josh and Kelly switched roles solely to put Clement down for being such an asshole – is critical to flash fiction. Because stories that are this short do not allow complex character development or exploration of moral ambiguities, the easiest way to make them worth reading is a surprise ending.

I could edit this story down to 500 words, but only by reducing the dialog that was critical to establishing Clement’s character. I did not want to do that. All four characters in this story have to be fairly simple and cliched, but Clement, especially, needed a bit of room to earn the put-down that he receives.

The hidden twist inside the twist is that Josh will be punished severely for breaking his role and making Kelly submit to him, but he did it for her sake. He was embarrassed that he had asked her to endure an evening with Clement and this was a stratagem for extricating her early. Though the whipping was painful, it was probably less painful for her than listening to Clement for another three hours. And it was part of the extreme play that she and Josh enjoy most.

Though Josh and Kelly are in an overtly dominant/submissive relationship, I hope that the love and respect that they have for each other is clear.

For me, the most interesting character in the story is Julia, Clement’s wife. She has been putting up with Clement’s abuse for years but is not happy about it.

Seeing Kelly act so submissive to Josh is an eye-opener for her.  But how? Does she realize that there is a difference between being happily submissive and being browbeaten? Does she see Kelly possess a grace and dignity even when she’s bent over a chair receiving a brutal whipping? Does she understand that Clement will never allow her the same dignity? Does she see that her husband is not as deserving of her submission as a real top would be? Will she tell Clement to take a hike while she looks for someone who is worthy to be her partner?

Or does she go the other way? Is she horrified by the way Kelly is publicly degraded? Does she see the similarity between her own situation and Kelly’s performance? Does she tell her husband that she sees where accommodation leads and that she’s not going to end up like Kelly? Is that why she tells Clement to take a hike?

Or has she been so shocked by what she’s seen that she vows to never let that happen to her? Does she realize that Clement is less of a man than she thought and begin to bring him to heel? She does not know that Kelly was actually dominant over Josh, but this might be the first in a series of events that lead to her becoming dominant over Clement.

This little story about Josh and Kelly could well be the prologue to a much longer exploration of Julia’s transformation from a mouse to lioness.

I trust that most readers also realize that the title, “Topper”, is a pun for “top her”, which is what Josh does. It is a deliberate clue that who is topping who is the theme of the story. Josh not only breaks his usual role to top Kelly, but he’s also topping Clement in the sense that he is outdoing him.

BDSMLibrary.com specifies that stories must be at least 10,000 characters – about 2,000 words – to be accepted for publication. “Topper” fell far short of that requirement. I appreciate the BDSMLibrary editor for indulging me by accepting this story. Maybe it was because I have made up the difference with long stories often enough. Or maybe they couldn’t be bothered counting the words.

And, by the way, at more than 900 words, this commentary is now considerably longer than the story that it comments on. It’s hard for me to write anything in 750 words.

Yours, Ashley

 

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Commentary on “A Necessary Beating”

“A Necessary Beating” is yet another story of a marriage going wrong and a wife trying to repair it by submitting to punishment.

Jillian is a young woman, not married for long, who committed adultery and regrets it. Four months after the affair, her husband barely speaks to her and has not made love to her again. But he has not moved out and has not yet filed for divorce, giving her hope.

She equips him with boxing gloves and incites him to pummel her naked body until she is bruised to the bone, has a broken nose and cracked ribs, and is racked with pain.

Then she submits to rape – the first sexual act that she has had with her husband since her infidelity.

She swears that she is determined to endure this again, as often as necessary, until he is confident about her dedication to him.

Her rationale for seeking this mistreatment is that her infidelity dealt a severe blow to his manhood. However he might try to reason his way out of their situation with civilized logic, he has a primal need for redeem himself by demonstrating his physical strength. She believes that it will help if he is able to beat her.

Need I mention that this is one of the darkest stories that I have written?

Sometimes I think that I should apologize for including this story in an anthology of erotic fiction. There is little that is erotic about this story. Rather, I would classify this as a horror story. But, rather than following the convention of horror stories and making the evil clear and obvious, the evil in this story is given as much justification as possible.

The question that is posed by this story is: Given the wife’s guilt, the explicit permission that she gives, and her taunting and goading – is the husband justified in beating her? I would hope that those who read this story will see the evil for what it is and reject it.

The more interesting question is whether a man in this situation would do as requested, but moderate his response. Hit her, but not too hard. Sting but not break. Stop before she cries. Make the punishment symbolic rather than real. Would the man who did that be less evil than the husband in this story who lost control of his emotions?

I did not write that story for fear that it might lead the reader to the wrong answer.

There isn’t much subtlety about this story. A reader who attempts to see the beating as symbolic of some other behavior in a failing marriage should be discouraged by Jillian’s insistence that she is tapping into instinctive biological needs that are distinct from conventional interactions between husbands and wives.

It is obvious that the blows to Jillian’s genitals are symbolic. She says that explicitly. As well, Derrick avoids striking her breasts. That can be seen as a symbolic acceptance of her as the potential mother of his future children. Hope is to be found an a woman’s breasts.

Her logic in this story – that a cuckold can regain his self respect by beating his wife – is suspect. If anything, he would probably benefit more from beating the man who cuckolded him. However, the image of masculinity as raw physicality has engaged Americans from Ernest Hemingway to Louis D’Amour to Chuck Palahnuik.

You may forgive Jillian for believing what she has heard so often. But I happily reject that crude caricature of man as beast. Jillian would have done better if she had seen the stereotype as the outdated caricature that it is.

I began with the image of a woman being beaten by a man wearing boxing gloves and built the story from there. I’ve never read any other story that uses this device. Nor have I heard of anyone engaging in boxing as a component of BDSM role play. It is an activity that would be too dangerous to undertake casually. I can only hope that the device did not stretch the readers’ credibility too far.

I also hope that this story does not spur any unfaithful wife to ask her husband to beat her; nor any man to think that he is justified in beating his woman instead of leaving her.

Personally, I think that Jillian and Derrick will be divorced before long. Her “solution” will not help. Instead, it will create an atmosphere so toxic that neither of them will be able to overcome it.

Counseling would be a better option for Jillian and Derrick.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “INR”

“INR” is a story about a woman who has strong fantasies about being raped and wants her husband to satisfy her desire to experience the real thing.

The story was written in two parts. The first, shorter part, was written entirely from the husband’s point of view. He receives an email from his wife that convinces him that she wants to be raped – really raped, not just have a bit of light-hearted role playing. To that end, she asks him to rape her violently within the next twenty-four hours, no matter how much she pleads for mercy or claims to have changed her mind.

He does as she asks, surprising himself with his own enthusiasm. Later, she assures him that he did exactly what she wanted him to do and urges him to be even more thorough next time she asks.

The second, longer part was written later, entirely from the wife’s point of view. This time, we learn that she is punishing herself for obsessing about a former lover. She sends her husband the code, “INR”, meaning “I Need Raping”, and urges him to be brutal.

As soon as she sends the code, she begins to fear what is coming and tries to retract her email. Her husband, trusting her assurance that he should ignore all claims that she has changed her mind, replies that he is coming for her no matter what. Undoubtedly, he likes being allowed to use his wife’s body without regard for her feelings.

She flees to a motel room, but a masked man breaks into her room, blindfolds her, binds her, and silently rapes her all day and all night. By the time she frees herself from her final bondage, the man is long gone.

She does not know if the man was her husband or a stranger. But she has unleashed a beast on herself and knows that she will be raped again and again in the coming years. Worse, she has no choice but to invite future rapes from her husband, because not doing so would alert him to the possibility that she is being raped by a stranger and he could not adjust to that idea.

This is one of my darkest stories.

The first part was intended to stand alone. I wanted to try writing a story from a male point of view after having written so many from a female POV. And I wanted an answer to critics who complained that my male characters were not only weak, but weakly portrayed. The husband is a civilized man, but his civility is only a veneer. When his wife gives him permission to shed his cloak of civility, he is revealed as a primal beast, ready and willing to rape her without restraint or remorse.

While she fears the pain and degradation, she does not fear for her life. This is not a feature of role-playing but is consistent with statistics about rape in the real world. Though on television, rapists usually kill their victims, in reality, rape-murder is far, far less common than heterosexual rapes in which the rapist leaves the female victim alive. From an evolutionary perspective, killing a woman who may have been impregnated by the rapist is counterproductive. Rape will only be adaptive if it increases the chances that the rapist will create a child as a result of the risk that he’s taking.

My greatest concern when writing this story is that it may give people the impression that some or even many women secretly want to be raped. This is absolutely not true. Even women who fantasize about being raped and may go so far as to role play rape with their lovers do not want to experience real rape. There are good scientific reasons why a woman will always strongly favor consensual sex.

Any woman who plays the game that the wife in this story does without agreeing on a safeword first is foolish beyond belief. And the man who agrees to partake will regret it. Unless he’s a sociopath, the man will learn to his life-long sorrow that there’s a huge difference between realistic role play and real rape.

That is part of the point of the second, much longer part of the story. The horror that my protagonist in this story feels at the end is exactly what I would expect a real woman in that position to feel.

At the end of the story, neither the wife nor the reader knows if the man who raped her in the motel room was a stranger or her husband. She may never know but, to some extent, it doesn’t matter. If someone is raping her when she does not ask for it, then she is being raped whether it is her husband or not.

But I think it would be better for her if it was her husband doing it so that’s what I choose to believe. He saw her driving away, followed her to the motel room, and assumed that the chase was part of the game. He followed her instructions to make her rape as real and as brutal as he could. She is not a victim of an error but of her own poor judgment.

I am tempted to write a final chapter that explains this. And that explores the husband further. He has become a true rapist and no longer requires his wife’s permission to rape her. He is now willing to take the initiative.

That would make the story even darker than it already is.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “Suzie’s Lessons”

This is another story about a computer geek. And, of course, a masochistic woman.

A computer science graduate student, Rob, is working in his office late in the afternoon when a stranger, Suzie, comes in and asks him to remove her bra. She has locked a tack-lined leather bra on herself with a combination lock, knowing that she will have to find someone to unlock it for her.

Rob is at something of a loss but gets advice about how to handle the situation from a female friend via a text message service. She tells him how to turn this opportunity into an ongoing sexual relationship by satisfying the woman’s need to punish herself.

In the end, the narrator of the story is revealed as the woman at the other end of the chat conversations. She becomes an active character by entering the story to displace Suzie as a more appropriate girlfriend for Rob.

Some readers expressed their displeasure at having the narrator become an active character at the end because that broke with convention; others didn’t mind it. No one seems to like it as much as me. It’s definitely what I like best about this story.

Suzie had a rationale for hurting herself with a punishment bra and then having to humiliate herself by finding a stranger to unlock it, but I expect most readers to see through that. It was merely an excuse for her to indulge her innate masochism. If a reader has difficulty believing that a woman could be as masochistic as Suzie, then he will not believe her weak rationalization, either.

One reader pointed out that she could have avoided the humiliation by simply cutting the bra off with a pair of scissors. When I was writing the story, I thought about explaining that the bra had been reinforced with steel cable but did not bother. If Suzie had the technical skills and tools to create a more secure bra, she would have been able to use same skills and tools to remove it. The entire story rests on the premise that Suzie enjoys subjecting herself to moderate pain and humiliation and is not seeking an easy way out.

The other thing that I like about this story is that it gave me a vehicle for inserting a non-porn payload. I was being plagued by computer viruses despite corporately-managed virus protection. Hours that I spent trying to clear out stupid malware were hours that I could not spend writing porn. The self-styled geniuses at Microsoft should feel humiliated that Russian and Chinese teenagers can break their computers at will. The solution is simple. Build computers with the operating system installed on read-only media so that it can’t be modified by a root kit. I inserted a short description of how to do this in the middle of the story in the hopes that someone at Microsoft or some other company would read it and get the hint.

More than one reader commented that they liked the description of the virus-proof computer more than the erotic content of the story.

But I’m still waiting to see virus-proof computers for sale.

Yours, Ashley

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