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on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Faye Seidler 

I’m polyamorous and I live with my two girlfriends, who both mean the world to me. They contribute to making me a better person by challenging me when I’m wrong, supporting me when I try something new, and comforting me if I fail. It has been a relationship built on trust, consent, family meetings, and more happiness than I’ve ever had at any other point in my life.


That said, it’s really hard to share any of that with people I meet. It’s easy to talk about my girlfriend, it’s easy to come out as lesbian or trans, because we have narratives for that. Even if someone doesn’t like it, they understand what it is.


But if I come out as poly, I also have to prepare to spend time in a possibly awkward conversation, trying to justify my love and how we live. It’s a conversation I often avoid having with anyone other than those I consider friends, because the frustration just isn’t worth it otherwise.


That is why I am incredibly thankful for PolyAware, an organization in our area dedicated to educating individuals about poly issues. They also provide a plethora of resources and even support for individuals looking to explore what it means to be poly. I had the honor of sitting down with the members of PolyAware, among them Ashton Shepard and Andrew C. Tyson, for questions.


High Plains Reader: What does it mean to be polyamorous?


PolyAware: Polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible, and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamorous individuals are like most people: they seek a fulfilling love life, only theirs can involve multiple partners while a monogamous individual has only one. It isn’t about whether polyamory or monogamy is better, it is about what is a better fit for each person.


HPR: What are the primary functions of PolyAware?


PolyAware: PolyAware is an education and advocacy group for polyamory in the Fargo-Moorhead region. We increase awareness of polyamory for anyone who wants to hear. We support legal movements to increase the rights and protection of polyamorous people. We offer support to polyamorous people in the community and we keep confidential information confidential. If it’s not small talk, we assume it’s private.


The members of PolyAware fill in where needed to accomplish those functions. Some of our tasks include scheduling events, advertising for events, coordinating with the Pride Collective, presenting at events, networking, giving advice, and posting interesting articles on our Facebook page.


HPR: What are some of the misconceptions people have about polyamory?


PolyAware: Polyamory is not cheating. Cheating implies breaking the rules, and we negotiate our own rules. Polyamory is not swinging. Swinging focuses on recreational sex, and polyamory focuses on romantic connections. That said, some poly people also swing. Polyamory is not religious, though some people practice poly as part of their religion. Polyamory is not sexist, though some people practice poly in a sexist way. Polyamory is not easy. It requires a great deal of communication, trust, and self-esteem.


HPR: What are some unique challenges in polyamorous relationships?


PolyAware: We like to say love is infinite but time is not. Juggling schedules can be a bear. Managing feelings of jealousy can be difficult and require constant communication and consent.


It’s hard to find supporting religious communities, but some pagan groups tend to be welcoming of poly individuals, and a few other congregations are discerning their stance on welcoming polyamorous folks as well.


Also, polyamory is less well understood than gender and sexual minorities, with many individuals accepting someone in the broader LGBTQ+ spectrum, but rejecting them for being poly. It unfortunately is an issue where people can be at risk of losing their friends, families, jobs, housing, spiritual communities, and children just because they have two or more significant others.


Further, polyamory is not a protected class under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and we’re likely going to be waiting a long time before polyamorous individuals can enjoy marriage equality and the privilege of having all our loved ones be able to visit us in the hospital or sharing legal custody of children in our households. ...

"Are Sex Parties Legal? We Spoke to A Veteran Promoter To Find Out"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates


By Sophie Weiner

Over the past few years, alternative sexual culture has gone from niche to nearly mainstream. The first two films in the BDSM-themed Fifty Shades of Grey series each made over $100 million at the US box office. Polyamorous relationships are also becoming increasingly commonplace—in a 2015 study by the legal data startup Avvo, 4% of American respondents classified themselves as currently in an open relationship, and only 45% of men (and 62% of women) said they were morally opposed to them.


Sex parties—events where participants can have sexual experiences with other attendees in a safe and consenting environment—are also growing in popularity. Ben Fuller, the founder of Modern Lifestyles, a ticketing service for swinger parties, told Quartz that his business has increased by 81% over the last two years.


But just because these subcultures are becoming less taboo, doesn't mean that the authorities see them that way. There are still laws on the books in many states that prevent kink and BDSM—an acronym for Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism—from being practiced openly. Non-kink sex-positive events are also stifled by these laws, which prevent these events from openly advertising and charging for tickets.


We asked Deborah Rose, a Philadelphia-based veteran promoter of sex-positive events, to explain the regulations surrounding the industry, how promoters get around some of these barriers, and strategies for making the scene better and safer for participants.


THUMP: How would you define a "sex party"?


Deborah Rose: I think that it would be a mistake to call a sex-positive space a "sex party, because they're usually not just sex-centering. Some of them are, but most of them aren't. Most of the communities who go to these kinds of parties call them "play parties" more than anything else.


There are many different iterations [of what a sex-positive event can be]. They can vary largely in size. There are parties in people's private homes that range from five to 10 people, and then there are really large-scale events that can be 150 people on a Saturday night in a warehouse or at a music venue. Largely, those parties exist in BDSM, kink, and fetish communities.


The swinger communities tend to have what are commonly called "sex parties." But they largely don't have those in warehouses—they have their own clubs. We see swing clubs in most major cities, and those are established, for-profit businesses that facilitate a sex-positive space in a really specific context. Those communities are largely straight, white, and heteronormative.


What are the laws surrounding these kinds of events?


The most common misunderstanding is that the laws are the same everywhere. Actually, the biggest problems that these communities face is that the laws are different everywhere you go.


In major East Coast cities, they vary wildly. Most cities do have a swingers club, which facilitates sex parties that are completely above-board. They're licensed clubs. It's a special licensing they seek from the zoning board or from licensing and inspection that allows them to operate as a completely confidential, private, members-only club. When people come in, they don't buy a ticket for the night. They buy what is branded as a "membership," so that they buy into this membership, which allows the clubs confidentiality [and therefore protection from prosecution for potentially violating vice laws].


On the East Coast, "vice laws," sometimes called "blue laws," are laws that govern people's moral behavior. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania—recently in New York, it was changed—you cannot facilitate sex or facilitate "abuse" in any way, which makes it so that it's almost impossible for a promoter to organize a party without opening themselves up to liability. Vice laws typically regulate sex, alcohol, and drugs.


When we talk about BDSM, kink, and fetish communities, those communities have largely been relegated to spaces that are not zoned and licensed. Because in many East Coast cities and in many East Coast states, you [legally] do not have the ability to consent to "abuse". So, facilitating these parties or participating in these communities can be illegal and can open you up to prosecution.


For swinger parties at licensed clubs, is it at all apparent in the laws or paperwork that sex will be happening at these locations?


Swingers clubs largely try to avoid explicit language on what we call the "public-facing internet" or "public-facing media." You go to the clubs and you understand what is happening there, but they don't advertise sex.


The other thing they don't advertise is alcohol. One of the biggest liabilities for a promoter is to allow alcohol into their spaces, because then you are involving whatever liquor control board—whatever organization that governs alcohol within your community—into your space. Anytime you mix alcohol and sex, you're automatically opening yourself up to a huge liability. Especially if you're taking money at the door.


So, the way swingers clubs circumnavigate that is almost all their spaces are BYOB. They have a bar--you bring your alcohol to them and they will serve it to you--but they are not selling you alcohol.


Aside from swing communities, which do have a lot of alcohol inside their community, most of the sex-positive communities that organize play parties shy away from alcohol because of the liability that it brings [due to intoxicated people who can't consent or who may be a danger to others or themselves], and because of the level of regulation that it brings. It shines a light on what is already a space where we don't want too much exposure.


Could a sex-positive event be prosecuted as operating an illegal brothel?


In some states, parties that sell tickets or charge a cover at the door definitely open themselves up to prosecution for facilitating prostitution. Promoters sell tickets to events ahead of time to mitigate this issue.


You mentioned that because of some of these laws, it is difficult to throw any parties with a kink or fetish element. How do people get around that?


In the states where it is illegal to "facilitate abuse," they largely don't. Massachusetts is a really good example of this. Massachusetts has a very large kink community that does not participate in that culture within Massachusetts. They travel to Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut, where events are more easily facilitated, and where the laws are slightly more friendly to these spaces. On the East Coast, the most active kink and fetish communities are in Baltimore and DC; because spaces are able to exist there legally, they're able to license themselves, and exist above board. Maryland and the District, as well as Pennsylvania, benefit from more relaxed laws in this regard.


What's different about the laws there?


Ironically enough, the law that makes it so that you cannot consent to or facilitate abuse is the Violence Against Women Act, which is an incredible law written to protect domestic violence victims. But what it also does is make it so that the police can prosecute somebody without the consent of the victim. So, in states where that doesn't exist, we're more able to provide spaces for kink and fetish communities to flourish. But in states where it does exist, [the kink community] is largely stifled, for fear of prosecution.


You mentioned that the laws are also a little more relaxed on the West Coast.


Absolutely. States on the West Coast have more progressive ideas about sex and sexuality in general. Maybe not pervasively within the culture, but definitely within the laws. Because that exists, the best centers for sex-positivity and for sex-positive culture exist on the West Coast.


In San Francisco, The Armory [building in the Mission, owned and operated by BDSM-focused porn production company] provides one of the best sex-positive spaces in the country. The other best space in the country for sex-positive culture is in Seattle. Both of these spaces exist above board and have both for profit and non-profit entities that serve communities. The laws that exist allow them to participate in communities that facilitate discussions about sex-positivity and provide spaces for these communities to grow in a way that is not available to us on the East Coast.


Are there any organizations out there trying to advocate for sexual freedom and sex-positive spaces as a First Amendment right?


Free expression is really what we're talking about. There's an incredible organization that exists within kink communities called the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, or NCSF, which exists to help all alternative sexual communities. Their goal is to raise awareness about alternative sexual practices and the way these communities govern themselves, and to add resources for people to explore their sexuality in safe ways.


They've created consent workshops and incident response structures; they advocate for sexual practices to be removed from the DSM, and they are lobbying Massachusetts, Virginia, and Kentucky to see BDSM and kink as a sexual practice rather than a paraphilia. They're an organization that has stood up for kink and sex-positive communities all over the country. ...

"Donald and the Dominatrix: How the White House Inspired a BDSM Movement"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

If critics of President Trump have noticed an uptick in female devaluation, it's not reflected in the S&M scene



Soon after Donald Trump joined the presidential race, a professional dominatrix named Tara Indiana announced her plans to follow suit. “If a carnival barker like Donald Trump can run for president, why not a dominatrix?” she said during an interview with GQ. Her slogan? “Whipping America back into shape, one middle aged white man at a time.”


Her platform included decriminalizing all consensual sex acts between adults, funding scientific research to show that S&M is a sexual orientation and adding “kink” into laws dealing with discrimination. She also favored the idea of the prohibitioning of middle-aged white men from holding office without permission from their Mistress, and requiring men to carry purses so they can look after their own belongings.


“The women in my field, we don’t live as victims. When we want to make change, we make changes,” says professional dominatrix and sex educator Sandra LaMorgese. “When we want to influence the world around us, we take action.”


“Women are feeling a little powerless right now,” she notes. And she’s right. In the weeks following election, sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson noticed a steady decline in sex drive among her female clients. They appeared irritable and easily annoyed. Often, it was the men in their lives that bore the brunt of these developments. Anderson dubbed the phenomenon The Donald Trump Bedroom Backlash. “The misogyny displayed by Trump throughout his entire presidential bid. . . has undermined the hard-fought progress to de-objectify women,” she wrote in a think piece on the subject. “This general malaise can easily zap libido and ruin your sex drive.”


But there are those in the sex-o-sphere who haven’t abandoned their prowess. Instead, they’re using it to get even.


In an interview with Vice, Indiana explained, ““I’ve noticed being in the scene for over 25 years, that fetishes and kinks come in trends, just like fashion, music, et cetera. And these trends tend to be reactions to the social and political zeitgeist.”


“When I got into the business in 1989 your garden variety slave was into foot worship, and cross dressing. I see this as a reaction to changing gender roles and a need to work through those issues. Then when AIDS started to affect the straight community, things like heavy medical, blood sports, and scat became popular. People were tired of ‘safe sex’ — they wanted to do things that were dangerous and risky. “ ...




"Maybe Monogamy Isn’t the Only Way to Love"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

NY Magazine

By Drake Baer

In the prologue to her new book, What Love Is and What It Could Be, philosopher Carrie Jenkins is walking through Vancouver, from her boyfriend’s apartment to the home she has with her husband. She wonders at how the romantic love she experiences firsthand is so different than the model presented by popular culture and academic theory alike. “If indeed romantic love must be monogamous, then I am making some kind of mistake when I say, ‘I’m in love with you’ — meaning romantically — to both my partners,” she writes. “I am not lying, because I am genuinely trying to be as honest as I can. But if romantic love requires monogamy, then despite my best intentions, what I’m saying at those moments is not, strictly speaking, true.”


Her book examines the long, sometimes awkward legacy of philosophers’ thinking on romantic love, and compares that with a new subfield in close-relationships research — consensual nonmonogamy, or CNM. While singers and thinkers alike have been riffing on a “one and only” for decades, she argues that space is being made in the cultural conversation to “question the universal norm of monogamous love, just as we previously created space to question the universal norm of hetero love.” These norms are more fluid than they appear: In Jenkins’s lifetime alone, same-sex and cross-ethnicity relationships have become common.


When I asked Jenkins to describe how it feels to have both a husband and a boyfriend — she rejects the “primary relationship” moniker altogether — she said that it’s like having more loving relationships in your life, like a close family member or friend. She and her boyfriend, whom she’s been with for about five years, used to work in the same building; he was teaching creative writing on the floor above her philosophy department, though they didn’t meet until they matched on OkCupid. While both men have met each other, they’re not close; Jenkins describes the relationship as having a “V shape,” rather than a triangle. Both helped in the development of the book: husband refining philosophical arguments; boyfriend editing the writing, and helping her to sound like a normal person, rather than an academic.


Still, CNM faces lots of stigma; even the study of it is stigmatized. Yet in the limited yet rich vein of research out there, the evidence suggests that it’s a style that, in some populations, leads to greater relationship satisfaction than monogamy. In any case, the researchers tell me, the insights into what makes more-than-two relationships work can be applied to any given dyad, given the communicative finesse required when three or more hearts are involved.


In a forthcoming Perspectives in Psychological Science paper, Terri Conley, a University of Michigan psychologist who’s driven the field, defines CNM as “a relational arrangement in which partners agree that it is acceptable to have more than one sexual and/or romantic relationship at the same time.” That’s distinguished from the “polygamy” practiced by some religious groups, where it’s not always clear whether wives can opt out of the relationship.


I was surprised to discover how common it is: A 2016 study of two nationally representative samples of single Americans — of 3,905 and 4,813 respondents, respectively — found in each case that about one in five people had practiced it during their lifetime. A 2016 YouGov poll found that 31 percent of women and 38 percent of men thought their ideal relationship would be CNM in some way. Other research indicates that around 4 to 5 percent of Americans in relationships are in some sort of CNM, be it swinging, where partners have sex with people outside their relationship at parties and the like; an open relationship, where it’s cool to have sex with other people but not grow emotionally attached to them; or polyamory, where both partners approve of having close emotional, romantic, and sexual relationships outside of the couple itself. People are curious, too: From 2006 to 2015, Google searches for polyamory and open relationships went up. Other data points to how sticking to the boundaries of monogamy doesn’t come easily to lots of people: A 2007 survey of 70,000 Americans found that one in five had cheated on their current partner. ...

"Dominatrixes and Porn Sites Report a Huge BDSM Uptick Since Trump Became President"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


Following November's election, intense fear overtook wide swaths of the country, spurred on by fears that President Trump would make good on his controversial campaign promises. What better way to shake yourself out of political panic attack than a lively BDSM session? According to dominatrixes and others in the sex work industry, a strong uptick in interest following the election suggests that many Americans are giving that a try.


"It was really intense the week of the election," said New York based dominatrix Sandra LaMorgese. "I was getting requests from people I had never met, and my regular clients were asking for more intense sessions. They were pushing past their boundaries in a very big way." LaMorgese first entered the industry in 2011, after losing her business following the 2008 market crash. She now specializes in BDSM roleplay and corporal punishment, but she said that milder forms of the latter are no longer passing muster among certain clients since Trump was elected. They want her to go harder. They want her to draw blood. And she does.



On January 10th, an unverified document surfaced accusing President Trump of having his own kinks—it alleged he had once hired prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed. On January 11, PornHub reported a 289 percent increase in searches containing the phrase "Golden Shower" (link NSFW) compared to their usual daily average. While a president's influence on American culture and politics has always been an obvious and inherent part of the job, it's possible our current president may be having an unintended effect on American sex, too. 


"Something has been going on since the Trump election," said LaMorgese. "It's like these guys are in shock. They're using sessions as a way to wake up."


Veteran adult film director Colin Rowntree has seen a similar shift unfolding on the website he founded in 1994,—a large BDSM, bondage, and fetish porn website. Since the election, he said the site has experienced a significant increase in views and requests for harder impact play. "Ball-busting," "face slapping," and "trampling" have all made their way into the top most searched terms. Viewers have also begun to favor videos having to do with "slave training" and "psychological games" over some of the site's more traditional content.


"All strange, but true," said Rowntree. "I can't be sure how much of this is connected to our new president changing the 'power paradigm' in America, but it's interesting to watch the shift in sexual desires and kinky needs and tastes." ...

"Polyamory and the city: “I tried to live without men, and I tried to live without women. I couldn’t do either”

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

An enlightened bisexual man on the search for the perfect ménage


by Daniel Krieger

Seven years ago, I met a German woman in South Sinai, Egypt, who was practicing polyamory. (I grew up in New York and Chicago, but spent two years traveling around the Middle East and living in Egypt.) It wasn’t the first time I was introduced to the idea, but it was the first time it clicked. All my life I had the idea that being devoted to a lover meant being exclusive. It’s this idea that society imposes on us, so I had always tried to fit into that mold. But I’ve known since puberty that I am bisexual, so being in a relationship, to me, always meant having to choose permanently between one side of my sexuality or the other. It always felt like a huge sacrifice. Knowing what a sacrifice it was subconsciously undermined a lot of relationships I had or frightened me from getting into them in the first place.


Read more Narratively: “Polyamorous People #2: ‘Once You Start Questioning Gender, Other Things Fall Down Like a House of Cards‘”


After I met that woman in Egypt, I resolved I would date only poly people. I realized I was never going to find success in an exclusive relationship because it was always going to be an unbearable compromise. And then when I came to New York five years ago, I plunged directly into the poly scene. I went to every poly group I could find (there’s a bunch). It didn’t take long to figure out that Open Love NY (the group behind Poly Cocktails) was the best one for me. There’s a feeling of inclusivity I hadn’t felt elsewhere. It was the most welcoming for a bi man.




I should clarify that a lot of bi people are perfectly comfortable being exclusive, even having a lifetime exclusive relationship and not feeling like they’re missing out on the other gender. But then there are people like me. There are two very distinct sides of my sexuality and each needs expression, confirmation and appreciation. When I try to be exclusive to one person, the other side feels neglected. I just couldn’t hack monogamy. I tried to live without men, and I tried to live without women. I couldn’t do either.


A big part of the paradigm of monogamy is a sense of property, a sense of owning another person. The other thing is jealousy, and the idea that it can be healthy to be jealous. I think both of these concepts are quite neurotic, but because they are accepted by our society it’s considered normal to treat other people as property and to regard jealousy as a sign of love rather than insecurity. With polyamory, there is instead the idea of “compersion,” which is taking pleasure in whatever makes your lover happy. You are happy to see your lover happy, and that includes them being made happy by the love of another person. ...

"3 Ways To Start Experimenting With BDSM"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

So you wanna get kinky?

Women's Health


Whether we're just more willing to let our freak flag fly these days or Christian Grey has something to do with it, our survey of 6,700 men and women found that nearly twice as many women as men (19 percent versus 11 percent) said "light bondage/kink" is what they want more of in the bedroom.


The gender distinction is intriguing. "Women finally feel equal to men in many areas," says Daniel Lebowitz, codirector and male sexuality specialist at The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "They know they're not subordinate." That has freed us up to play with being submissive—now that it's clearly just play.



Not into such bedroom games yourself? No worries, no judgment. But if this starts you thinking, consider that you may already be incorporating a little BDSM into your routine without realizing it. For instance, bringing a person to the edge of orgasm and stopping briefly to prolong things is a form of "orgasm denial" in BDSM-speak.


To explore more, use this beginner's guide:




Downloading a podcast that deals with BDSM themes, like "Modern Love" or "Savage Love," can open the door to talking about your own turn-ons, says Kendra Holliday, blogger at Or watch a lite-kink (mainstream) film, like Secretary, to see the psychological elements involved.




There are apps that prompt you both to share your desires via fill-in-the-blank quizzes; Holliday recommends MoJo Upgrade or iPassion. "Sometimes, writing things down is a lot easier than saying them." ...

"Your Brain on BDSM: Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You Feel High"

on Friday, 03 March 2017. Posted in Press Release, Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Gareth May


There's no denying that understanding how the human body works can lead to some intense sex. After all, as clichéd as it is, the brain is the biggest erogenous zone—and BDSM is no different.


It may conjure up images of bondage, discipline, sadomasochism, dominance, and submission, but many BDSM practictioners attribute the pleasurable pain of their fetish to the endorphin rush that accompanies the acting out of their fantasies. There's even a word for the state of a submissive's mind and body during and after consensual kinky play: subspace, often described as a "floaty" or "flying" feeling.


"For all of us, endorphins bind to opiate receptors to naturally relieve pain," explains Maitresse Madeline Marlowe, a professional dominatrix who also works as a performer and director for, a leading BDSM content producer. "Since BDSM play can include power exchange and masochistic acts, endorphins are one of the most common neurotransmitters [produced]."


As far back as 1987, leather activist and author Dr. Geoff Mains hypothesized that BDSM activity stimulated the release of endorphins, but scientists have yet to tease out the exact relationship between neurochemicals and S&M. But subspace does exist: Dr. Brad Sagarin, founder of the Science of BDSM research team and a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University, has compared it to runner's high, the sense of euphoria and increased tolerance for pain that some joggers feel after a long run. Except, obviously, one is caused by the asphalt flashing beneath your feet, the other by a whip swishing through the air.


In a 2009 study titled Hormonal Changes and Couple Bonding in Consensual Sadomasochistic Activity, Dr. Sagarin discovered that cortisol levels increase in subs and decrease in doms over the course of a scene. The effect was replicated in the research team's subsequent research: One 2016 preliminary study which measured the brain's executive functioning (i.e. basic control of our thoughts, emotions and actions) after participating in BDSM; and another that found that participants in the extreme S&M ritual known as the Dance of Souls (involving temporary piercings of the skin with weights or hooks attached) exhibited increases in cortisol throughout the ritual.


"Like many potentially stressful or extreme experiences (e.g., sky-diving, fire-walking), individuals' bodies react to that stress when they engage in BDSM," Science of BDSM researcher Kathryn Klement told Broadly. "We interpret these cortisol results to mean that when people engage in BDSM play (as the receiver of sensations) or extreme rituals, their bodies release a hormone usually associated with stress. However, we've also found that people subjectively report their psychological stress decreasing, so there is a disconnect between what the body is experiencing, and what the individual is perceiving."


For their 2016 study on brain functioning, Klement admits that the team didn't directly measure brain activity ("that would require an fMRI, which would be tricky to incorporate into a BDSM scene"). Instead, they had participants complete a Stroop test—a neuropsychological assessment commonly used to detect brain damage—before and after a scene. "Bottoms do much worse on this measure after the scene, while tops show no difference," Klement says.

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