Friday, April 8, 2011

An Insiders Guide to the BDSM Community…

Part II in a continuing series. Please note that each article is a stand-alone entity, but all are precluded by a core preface: An Essential Introduction:

In our series of understanding the alternative cultures, BDSM is by far the most complex & therefore requires a deeper level of consideration & discussion. So with that in mind, I would ask, what does it mean to submit to another?

When you close your eyes & the fantasy takes center stage, what comes to mind?

There is a very fine fabric made into a body suit, & when worn it feels as though you are completely naked wearing nothing at all. Imagine being led out to spend countless hours in public with the feeling of being so totally exposed. Imagine being in a crowded club while your body brushes against so many others, as if each was pressing against your bare skin. Imagine your partner watching, knowing that your uncomfortable excitement brings them absolute delight.

- To some, this is an act of submission.

Imagine perhaps being shaved bare, & then asked to go out in a very short skirt, but also made to wear no underwear of any type; to be felt & caressed when no one would look & see. Imagine going to a fine restaurant & just before you enter your partner has you wear a g-string that fits snug to your body. Enmeshed in your garment is a very quiet but fairly powerful vibrator. As each course is brought, you discuss the evening’s plans & the erotic scene that awaits you. During each moment your partner holds a remote that engages the vibrator you’re wearing. In the middle of a restaurant during a wonderful dinner, deep & firm pulsations send shivers of want & desire throughout your body.  How erotic would all this make you feel?  How much of a woman in the fullness of her sexual power would this make you become?

Perhaps you then go to a high end strip club where your partner has arranged for you to "audition" & are required to dance completely nude before everyone (all staring with eyes of lustful desire), he or she most of all...

- To some, this is to submit oneself fully.

Imagine being blind folded & tied, then made to spread fully. You must be made to understand what it is to truly give yourself to another. First the feel of a light feather caresses the whole of your body. Slowly, gently, with wisps of little kisses on your most sensitive areas. You grow eager with anticipation as hands then gently caress over your skin. But soon a firm hand spanks down upon you. You then feel a firm slap on your thighs & again on your hind. In time you grow red & begin to squirm. Soon the bite of a flogger whips across your back & then again & again upon your ass. You jump with each lash, but then sweet hands gently massage the pain away. Again a slap but this time a gentle touch begins to explore the sensitivity of your thighs. You grow hot & soon feel as if you may cum. But then it all stops & you are left wanting - holding a deep yet unsatisfied desire for more. As you are then untied, you are placed in a chair as the blindfold is taken off. Only then do you realize another couple had been watching all along. They are asked to have sex for both of you to watch, & as your voyeuristic desires are given great enticement you are then made to masturbate, but again you are not allowed to cum. In time, while you & your partner both look on, the couple convulse in an erotic dance of desire fulfilled. You feel your body wanting & soon are explored by your own partner until it becomes just too much. Keeping you on the verge of orgasm you start to beg for more; you promise to be good & never hold any part of yourself back if only you would be allowed to finally explode. “Yes” is heard, & with all eyes upon you the screaming desire allows you to explode harder than ever before…

- To many, this would be an act of true submission.

In essence, the act of D&S is to simply give oneself over to the desires held by another. But in truth, anyone can wield a whip or spank their partner. An artful tease can bring deep pulsations of lustful desire to every nerve you carry. And yet, so many focus only on the physical. But in reality, the most erogenous zone of the body is truly the mind. 

All too often it seems as though few really hold an understanding to really explore this realm of desire to its full extent - to thus explore one’s deeper sense of erotic passion & fantasy. And yet, to do so is to not only explore desire, but also one's self as well...

The Culture at its Best (& Worst):

Without question, the core foundation of any interaction in BDSM is most certainly an exchange of power (which is to say that one person will relent a sense of power & control to that of another). However, what takes place does not come from a perspective of personal denigration, but rather is initiated for the purpose of a mutually satisfying benefit. 

Indeed, more often than not we find the culture at first glance isn’t quite what it appears to be…

Actually the all-inclusive label of BDSM is in & of itself often misleading. The culture as a whole encompasses a much larger realm than the more specific scope of just Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism. In fact, quite often the interaction of the Dom/sub relationship isn’t (on any level) what it first appears to be…

In the highest form of a D&S relationship, the Master must actually earn the trust & devotion of his or her submissive before they give themselves over (albeit, this certainly isn’t the case for every encounter). In this context, it is a willful act & offered as a gift rather than an act of forced coercion. At this level the encounter is a relationship born of true devotion, open communication, deep trust, & a sense of love or intimate connection. In the end, a dynamic of absolute passion & intensity is born.  Indeed, this is the culture at its best.

Then of course, there is the other side…

Far too often we see an interaction created out of one person’s need for control - a pathetic attempt to prop up an over-inflated ego or balance a poor sense of self-image & lack of self-esteem through the absolute domination of another. They literally steal the energy of one person so they can feel some sense of capable resolve. As a sub, we often see a person who wrestles with the demons of some past trauma & is actually reliving the essence of being a ‘victim’ in some sense of the word. In either case, there is no sense of mutual regard, & an interaction in this light is anything but healthy. Like bad sex in any forum, the focus here is solely on what they can get from the encounter rather than what they can give in return. Such an interaction has really nothing to do with a willful state of the D/s relationship & ultimately ends up as nothing more than a clear act of abuse. Without question, this is the culture at its absolute worst.

The Community Taken as Whole:

Please understand that the BDSM Community is essentially a forum for the expression of one's sexuality (whatever that may be). By its very nature, you also include a multitude of fetish-based desires, fantasies, & various pursuits. For instance, to stick with the core of the whole thing, there is Bondage (the simple act of restraint), then there is D&S (the desire for dominance & submission) - both which are separate yet clearly interconnected. Just as with sadism & masochism (the desire to cause physical pain to another or to find pleasure in the causing of pain), this in a pure sense has really very little to do with domination. For instance, one is not necessarily dominated because they are being spanked. Indeed, a dominant can have a slave spank them because they desire the pleasures of his own masochistic want. 

And yet, more often they all come together as a unified whole: one dominates another to which bondage often plays a role; the desire for physical intensity is almost always linked to the desire for a scene with elements of S&M (at least to some degree), and so on...

So what does all this mean & why do we care?  Simly that you need to keep a perspective on what it is you see (or that to which you are involved) & all may not be quite what it appears. If for instance a person is masochistic, then are you not actually seeing an act of love & desire as this person actually achieves pleasure from that which they receive?  Awareness & perspective is the key to understanding what is truly unfolding before you...

With such nuance things do tend to get a little complex. Taken then as a whole (but not going too deep), I find there are roughly 5 independent but interconnected levels to the culture: Dominance & Submission, Bondage & Discipline, Sadism & Masochism, Fetish, & Fantasy

The D&S Relationship (Dominance & Submission): The rather obvious dynamic of the D&S relationship is for one person to have a sense of relative control & power over another. The person who enunciates that sense of power or control is the Dom (Dominant), Top, or Master/Mistress. The person who relents control is the sub (submissive), bottom, or slave. For the most part, there are roughly 4 levels to such an interaction: 

Master / slave: The interaction of a Master & slave is more specifically an exchange of complete control offering a degree of psychological ownership. In that, a slave will often (but not always) have total dedication to their master. However, a master might have several slaves under his or her care. Sometimes the relationship at this level would be carried on 24/7. At other times, such an exchange would take place whenever the two are together, but independently from one another each might lead a completely normal life. Often the two might have an agreement that at predetermined moments (or through a particular signal) they will then become Master/slave. The rest of their lives would then be lived in a normal fashion (say for instance if a couple had kids).

Dom / sub: The interaction of a Dominant & their submissive is very similar to that of a Master & slave, but there are notable differences. First, the relationship is generally of a more casual duration &/or commitment. Also, there is usually a fairly specific agreement as to predetermined limits. Such a relationship is usually not a full blown lifestyle between two individuals & there is probably no degree of implied ownership. Often they might just be travel partners in the culture or may just get together for occasional play. Indeed, both are usually free to explore other pursuits with those in the scene. In short, if the Master / slave relationship is analogous to being married, then the Dom / sub dynamic is more attune to generally dating.

Mentor / Student: Sometimes the relationship takes on more of a tone to that of a teacher & student. This can include several forms. A Master might find an individual who is new to the culture but is interested in exploring their submissive desires. Perhaps they know very little about what they feel inside & are looking to gain a sense of understanding rather than to just act out a scene. In this case, a Master would accept the submissive for training but would do so as much for the sake of personal exploration as for sexual gratification. Another example would be a couple finding a third-party master to mentor them both in the art of D&S. Perhaps one individual wanted to explore their submissive desires but the spouse was really very inexperienced. A Master could then act as their
Mentor & would offer a powerful degree of personal & sexual exploration for both to share.

Top / Bottom: In general, a Top is seen as a Dominant & a bottom is then the person who relents control. However, such an exchange might have no part in D&S (although this IS an exchange of power). Indeed, this may entail a purely sexual encounter where the top is the one who takes the initiative & the bottom is the one who acts more passively or prefers to ‘give’ gratification. 

Versatile / Switch:  Not all in the culture is quite so black & white. Quite often, individuals will engage on both sides of the whip so to speak. An individual who sometimes acts as a Top (or Dom) & other times as a bottom (or sub) is referred to as a Switch. A couple or individual who acts in either role is often referred to as being Versatile.  Mind you, this can have a double meaning. Speaking strictly in the BDSM Culture, then we’re talking about one’s orientation toward power & control. Within this framework such a statement makes NO reference to sexual orientation. However, in other aspects of the adult community, when one says they are a “switch or versatile,” then they may mean they're bisexual or are flexible as to the sexual role they play. So if making such a reference then be clear on the context of the forum before you.

The Essence of B&D (Bondage & Discipline): Adjacent to D&S we then find Bondage & Discipline. Keep in mind that the two are NOT one-in-the-same. The act of submission is a willful surrender of one to that of another. A submissive essentially wants to please their Master/Mistress however possible. In Bondage & Discipline, we do not necessarily find this same exchange. Rather a level of training & punishment may be at play, either to engage the discipline necessary or as a means to erotic role-play. Also, not all scenes which utilize bondage necessarily engage what most would view as Discipline. Just as often, one might be bound or tied to be erotically teased vs. the more strict measures of spanking, flogging, etc.

The S&M Dynamic (Sadism & Masochism): In S&M we finally see an altogether different interaction. The act of Sadism & Masochism may have absolutely nothing to do with ‘Dominance’ or ‘Punishment’ on any level. Quite the opposite, here we find the desire for heightened arousal through the act of giving or receiving pain. In this context, a person who enjoys being spanked or flogged essentially gets off on the masochistic intensity of the act itself. Submission has nothing to do with it. Equally, a person who enjoys seeing another twitch or jump at the lash of a whip might have very little interest in actual Dominance. Rather it is the act of pain that stands alone as a pure act.

D&S vs. S&M: This is where things start to get a bit complicated, & it is for this that an open dialogue is so critically important. In the Fetish/BDSM Culture, so many different elements can become so completely enmeshed that they're soon unrecognizable as stand-alone disciplines. But when combined in harmony, a typical encounter will weave the fabric of all these various aspects into a tapestry of rich depth & true intrigue.

Just understand that communication & understanding is the key. A submissive can be truly dedicated to their master but might have little to no interest in pain (a common mistake made by many). Everything has its time & place, but not for every individual or in every instance.

A Few Other Elements:  Fetish, Fantasy, & Role Play, Etc.

One key consideration that BDSM has over its counterparts is that its various interests lend itself to a HUGE degree of relative crossover. Without a doubt, even basic vanilla sex will often have various tomes of more subdued scene-play to add a touch of flavor. However, there are certain subcultures that see such a large degree of co-mingled influence that they require some level of consideration onto themselves… 

The Gothic Subculture: Born in the early 80’s, it has a culture all its own. Based around the musical trends of Goth, Industrial, EBM, & Dark Wave,  it's a community with a deep message & has built its own attitude, mode of dress, overall scene, & way of seeing life (think Edgar Allen Poe meets The Cure). At its core, it’s really about the music. But even then, it carries an embrace of life's darker nature & this carries a similar root to that of the BDSM Community. And although each culture maintains a fairly large degree of direct crossover, make no mistake - to be a Goth is definitely NOT to be in the BDSM Culture.  Indeed, those in the Goth Scene may very well raise an eyebrow at the BDSM community & may have absolutely no interest in its practices. That said, a large number do at least carry some degree of mutual fascination in the scene, if not a direct interest altogether.

Leather & Latex: If you’re a broker on Wall Street then a dark suit is the uniform of the day. And if you move throughout the BDSM Community then a bit of leather or latex is most certainly your thing. But even though a person might have a very serious leather fetish, that doesn’t mean that they’re automatically engaged in the scene. Hell, some people just look good in it! ;-)

Fetish & Role Play: One of the key elements to the BDSM Culture is that it is so completely interwoven into other fetish-based desires & role play scenarios that the three almost move together as one. Indeed, a Dom & sub engage in ‘Scene-Play Scenarios’ almost as a constant. Also, various fetishes are so common in the scene that a good number of people refer to the culture as having an interest in Fetish.

The Inner Game (players in the field):

So now that we have an idea as to what’s going on, what then drives those who participate in the culture?  Without question, the reasons are as varied as anything, & discussing such attitudes can often get a very strong reaction. But there are a few common threads that shed some light, & equally a few misconceptions that need to be addressed…

The Dominant: What type of person is drawn to the psychology of a Dominant Personality? It's not always who you might think, & yet in other cases it’s exactly who’d expect. The list of common persona which follows is by no means complete, & the labels are not at all an accepted designate for the culture. But this should at least provide some general insight…

The Master or Mistress - This is an individual who treats their craft as if it were a type of ‘art in motion.’ Like the martial artist who uses self-defense to harmonize the mind, body, & spirit, so too does the capable Master use his expertise to create a degree of depth & connection between he & his submissive. But this type of person is generally more interested in the exploration of those they're with. In that, the use of BDSM is seen more generally as a means to an end. Even when engaged on a more casual level, they tend to understand the dynamic at work & uses the tools of BDSM to raise the intensity of such an encounter (or as a means by which to simply explore the desires & fantasies of those they engage).

The Erotic Dom - This individual is based more in the sexual enticements that scene-play can bring. For them it’s an exotic dance, something very beautiful & mutually fulfilling to all those involved. As such, the elements of play are used more as a means to create a connection to the partner they engage. Consequently, this person usually has a very sexual nature & BDSM is a very natural extension to that sense of sexual power & magnetism.

The Experiential Top - A very interesting creature indeed. It’s often been said that bottoms make the best tops. Such is the case for ‘The Experiential Top.’ This individual is often quite versatile, usually very experienced, & by strict definition was once a submissive that generally grew into more fully exploring the culture as a Dom. On the whole, they tend to live more vicariously through their partner than a normal Dom/Top. Very much like the true master, they are for the most part completely in tune with their partner, have a deep understanding for what’s at work, & are as interested in a sense of personal exploration as they are the art of the act itself.

The Pleasing Partner - Contrary to popular belief, not all Tops are in it for the sake of the scene. Sometimes you’ll have a couple with a submissive (or masochist) who has a deeply felt need that cries out for satisfaction. Such an individual requires a willing partner, & although their counterpart might not have quite such a strong desire to be a Top, they are an able partner, do get some enjoyment by being a Dom, & are willing to play a role for the sake of their partner.

The Sadist - Every masochist needs a sadist, & such individuals gain deep enjoyment by tormenting those who partake. However, it should be noted that very few sadists are actually TRUE Sadists. Such an individual would see his victim as not much more than an object & would take great pleasure in seeing them suffer untold agony (Nazi interrogators come to mind). Such a person is more often cast aside as a complete sociopath. Contrary to such practice, what the BDSM culture harbors is an arrangement of mutual consent & agreed limits - a core decree that can never be violated. But within such limits this exchange carries delight.

Just in the Scene - Like any subculture, BDSM has a good number of people that are really there to simply see & be seen. Such individuals generally want to just run with an alternative crowd & are usually seen in the more public venues. Basically, they want to play dress-up while they go out to dance, party, & just have a generally good time. All of which is cool by us...  ;-)

The Kinkster Top – Let’s face it, some people are just kinky. And since the culture has its roots in a good bit of kink, it’s only natural that it would draw a fair following of those who are more interested in the fetish aspect of things. For the most part this individual looks to the BDSM Community as a means to find others who might be interested in a particular fetish or fantasy. This group, however, will be covered in ‘A Basic Understanding of Fetish-based desires.’

The Abusive Top - They are more of a bottom-feeder for the culture although they may not appear that way. Generally speaking, this is a person with issues (very deep & unresolved issues). They may have a great deal of contempt & BDSM is a way for them to lash out. They may also be a small person inside but carry within a completely disproportionate ego & domination/abuse of another is a way for them to prop up a really damaged sense of self-image & self-esteem. They play because they’re miserable & this makes them feels a sense of power & control. 

The Versatile Switch: Somewhere between the True Dominant & Lifestyle Submissive you find the versatile switch. This person is for the most part completely in touch with themselves, in tune with those around them, & quite aware of their inner desires. They generally see the BDSM Community as means for sexual & personal exploration, & the practice of its art as more of an erotic adventure. Neither the Dom or sub orientation is a lifestyle for them; rather their interest is generally a fascination with the overall scene. And to be clear, this orientation can often be seen as a fundamental interaction between couples vs. individuals. Also, they are not wishy-washy & should never be seen as such. They are actually quite clear in what they want but gain pleasure from BOTH sides of the coin.

The Submissive: What type of qualities then work to create a Submissive? Well, very much like their dominant counterpart they’re not always what you might think, & yet sometimes they’re exactly what you’d expect. What follows is a listing of the more prevalent personalities, & as before the list provided is by no means complete, nor are the labels provided an accepted designate for the culture…

The Submissive - The recognized sub generally has a very high degree of sexual energy & gains tremendous pleasure by pleasing their Master or Mistress. However, it is a complete misconception that this person is weak or passive in the greater realm of life. Quite the opposite is often true. They usually offer a great deal & will reward any worthy master with absolute dedication. But the gift they have isn’t provided arbitrarily. Such a relationship is only allowed for those who have proven themselves as worthy of such trust, able to provide a very high level of open communication, & who offer in return a high degree of nurturing care & talent. From the outside looking in, what may seem as a controlling environment of absolute domination may not be that at all. Although the environment is one of strict control, the needs of the submissive are being met. As a result, what’s really engaged is an exchange of nurturing trust & erotic compassion. It’s complex, but it creates a very high level of interaction & engagement.

The Sexual Submissive - Often this individual tends to be a woman, & almost always they are quite attractive. In short, they essentially use the erotic nature of their submissive persona as a sexual lure. They are an active participant in the scene & do gain a good deal of personal pleasure from role-play scenarios. But make no mistake, they are the ones who are actually in control. The relationships they form are almost exclusively held on a superficial level. And although they can be really fun & exciting, don’t get too caught up in it. The moment they become genuinely committed is a point which strips them of their power & it’s a vulnerability that makes them far too uncomfortable. Consequently, they’ll almost never let it happen.

Power Broker By Day - Often the desire to be ‘submissive’ is actually rooted in the simple desire to release one's self from the pressures of a complicated & stressful life. The life of such an individual is usually very demanding & complex, & is typically filled with very important decisions on a daily basis. Here it’s common to find a high power CEO or District Court Judge engaged in fairly heavy play. It’s a simple concept - from an onslaught of daily pressures, when this person wants to relax & engage themselves sexually, they don't want more pressure of having to "perform." What they want is to enjoy the sexual experience as a means to pleasure & release. So to give one-self to another releases any need for emotional strain or stress. The intensity of the encounter also offers a full release not usually achieved in normal sexual activity.

The Masochist - Just as a Sadist moves through the culture to find a willing partner, so too does the person with a more masochistic desire. And just as a submissive might trumpet their servitude through the degree by which they please their master, a masochist will hold great pride in their ability to endure wincing sessions of pain & torment. Neither is right or wrong, both are quite simply just different in their own regard.

The Role-Play Partner - Exactly as we saw in the Dominant Orientation, sometimes you’ll have a couple with a Dom who has a deeply felt need to satisfy his or her desires. Such an individual requires a willing partner, & although their counterpart might not have quite such a need to be a dedicated submissive, they are willing to play a role for the sake of the relationship.

Just in the Scene - The same group as with a Dominant Orientation, only taking on a more submissive persona. The BDSM community has a number of people that are really there to just see & be seen. As before, they’re more generally found in the public venues, are usually younger, & basically want to play dress-up while they go out to dance, party, & have a good time.
The Kinkster Bottom - As with their dominant counterpart, some people are just interested in finding a partner who shares a particular kink. Since most niches for one fetish or another tend to be relatively small, people more generally cast their nets wide in the BDSM culture to see if they can find a counterpart who share a mutual interest. See adjacent article on ‘fetish-based desires.’

The “Slut” Bottom - This individual usually moves toward the more extreme aspects of play (often you’ll see them eagerly involved a full-on gang bang or bukkake). Do keep in mind that such an individual is generally not acting out of a victim-based mentality. Yes, their need is generally carried in an overwhelming fantasy of being completely objectified. BUT it is a fantasy & quite simply needs an occasional outlet. And although there is usually ‘something’ in their nature that brings this out, they openly embrace the desire as an occasional flight of wanton fulfillment & do not normally carry it as a core aspect to who or what they are as a person.

The Pleaser-type Personality - This character is a bit of a complicated issue. In life they just want everyone to get along & be happy, & they will often do anything they can to facilitate it. They get energy & satisfaction by making everyone else happy. Sexually they will for the most part take on a similar attitude & will act as devout bottom to please their partner. But for the most part, such an individual is usually working under a type of psychological barter system & will use their pleaser-type personality in a passive-aggressive manner. Understand that a submissive is actually a very strong individual with little need for such tactics. The pleaser-type isn’t really attune so much to true submission but might be an available partner for your wants & needs if you can figure out how to manage the true nature of the interaction involved.

The Victim Mentality - This individual engages in the culture for a very specific reason. They generally carry within a victim-based mentality & are striving to either relive some aspect of a previous trauma, or have literally created a learned response that finds great personal pleasure in playing the role of the victim. But the key word here is ‘VICTIM.’ This is NOT a submissive personality (even though the attributes are submissive in nature). The foundation here is based in a very unhealthy attitude, & the person involved understands almost nothing about what’s going on - not in the scene, & most certainly not within themselves. At best, a relationship with such a person is unstable, & at worst it is altogether impossible.

The Scene as a Lifestyle:

Most people in the community use the scene as an added dimension to spice up an otherwise well balanced life. Others use it to simply fulfill a basic need or fantasy. But there are a select few that fully embrace the culture as a complete lifestyle. They don’t spend their days pretending to be something they’re not, but instead carry some aspect of the culture throughout almost every aspect of their lives. In general, this type of individual usually falls into one of two categories…

The first is a person who has embraced the full spectrum of their nature & has simply come to realize that this aspect of their character is a primary aspect to who & what they are as a person. They have thus infused their life with all aspects of the culture & lead a truly fulfilled & satisfied life. But the key consideration is that they are still balanced individuals.

On the other end, you find a similar person who lives the culture as a lifestyle but here we find slightly different forces at work. This individual has completely engrossed every aspect of their being into the scene.  Now I don't really place judgment on how one leads his or her life, but I would question whether or not this is healthy. There are those who have embraced the culture as a lifestyle, but I would compare such an individual to that of a workaholic. In truth, they aren’t really embracing much of anything. What they’re really doing is to use this one aspect of their fundamental nature to essentially hide from everything else.

Life is a tapestry. Its richness lies in our ability to embrace the full capacity of our inner desire & the full spectrum of our true nature. That’s what the community is really all about. Not only is it an avenue to satisfy our primal desires, but it’s also a unique forum to explore the full nature of our inner most self. So engage yourself in the community & do so willfully. But do so for the purpose of mutual benefit with positive influence for each of those you engage. In the end, it’s a big beautiful world out there so live in it & experience all that it has to offer with a full shaker of spice. We all live in a rich world full of diversity. So take the time to gain a sense of understanding for both yourself & that which is around you. In this, acceptance will reign supreme & that’s really what it's all about…

- Richard A.D.


Also in our series, we offer the following articles for your consideration - each a subject onto its own, but all come together to comprise the full spectrum of the adult & alternative community:
The full body of work is here:

Brought to you by Richard A.D. & The Metro Underground...

Our intentions are simple: to serve as a fundamental gateway for the entire spectrum of the alternative, underground, & adult scene (for DC, Baltimore, & the Mid-Atlantic Region), to lift the fog for what's going on in & around the area, assist the promotion of the scene as a whole, & ultimately to provide a forum through which that bridges can be built - from one culture to another, & from one group to the next.

We hope you check it out,

Rick D~

The Metro Underground & DC Fetish Ball.


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