Beyond Staged Retreat Behind Virtual ‘Gender Paradigm’ Barricades:
The Rise and Fall of the Misrepresentation of Partner-Violence, and it’s Eclipse by an Understanding of Mate-Guarding
Moxon SP (2011) Journal of Aggression, Conflict & Peace Research 3(1) 45-54
The notion of partner-violence as a male-perpetrated phenomenon is not a scientific position but an amelioration of cognitive-dissonance within a political mindset. Against all the data, this ‘gender paradigm’ persists as a series of staged retreats as new research debunks each in turn. Supposed highly sex-differential injury rates, male unilaterality of perpetration, female self-defense, male ‘control’, and female especial fear: all are discredited as reasons to focus solely on men’s aggression. By contrast, scientific theorising regarding the root of the great bulk of partner-violence is in terms of the biological phenomenon of mate-guarding. However, the usual model of male proprietariness over female fertility itself is in part a ‘gender paradigm’ position. Recently revealed sex-symmetries necessitate a major overhaul of this model. Drawing on new understanding of the basis of pair-bonding, outlined here is a parsimonious account of mate-guarding as being by both sexes; notably women, owing to sex-dichotomous mate-value trajectory. This framework heralds the complete abandonment of the ‘gender paradigm’ and thus the end of a highly inappropriate intrusion of extreme ideology into science.
How the house of cards was built
The falsity of the ‘gender paradigm’ [Dutton & Nicholls 2005] of intimate-partner (domestic) violence [henceforth D/IPV] is comprehensively evidenced. My purpose here is to examine how/why it arose and persisted, and how it does so as ever more implausible rationalisation; but that it is unlikely to survive the scientific analysis of ‘control’ in terms of mate-guarding, here more fully grounded in biology through a proper understanding of pair-bonding.
The fiercely emotional attachment to the ‘gender paradigm’ needs to be understood. It is noted that it is a product of ideological (‘Marxist’) ‘thinking’, [Dutton 2007, Dutton 2006, MacKinnon 1991] but key is how that underpinning ideology has developed. There is growing scholarship in the humanities on the Marxist origins and establishment of a profound backlash against ordinary people, specifically men, that has become the predominant feature of contemporary politics. I have previously written a referenced summary of this from a (social-)psychological perspective [Moxon 2008], which I now briefly outline, with particular reference to D/IPV.
Within Western culture the intelligentsia adheres tenaciously to a political-Left ethos, fully in the face of its continued complete failure anywhere to effect real change in its own terms. This produces cognitive-dissonance, [Festinger 1957, Festinger et al 1956, Aronson et al 2006, Cooper 2007, Harmon-Jones & Mills 1999, Tavris & Aronson 2007] which in a group context is experienced as a shared mindset that is self-reinforcing as an in-group marker. No matter how successfully is assuaged the cognitive-dissonance of the mismatch between reality and ideology, the reality always asserts itself, obliging a ratcheting up of the ideology to try to transcend the loop through self-fulfilling prophecy, [Bottici & Challand 2006] that in groups is subject to a ‘synergistic accumulative effect’. [Madon et al 2004]
An ideology, being a take on human nature focusing on some aspect(s) to the exclusion of others, inevitably is exposed as false. Adherents can save face by admitting neither their own gullibility nor the falsity of the ideology, but by blaming others. The failure thereby can be (misre)presented as merely temporary. Those blamed here have been the mass of individuals who were the supposed beneficiaries of ‘the progressive project’ and the foretold ‘revolution’, but who remained impervious to prescription/prediction: ‘the workers’. [Raehn 2004, 1997]
Worker ‘recalcitrance’ was explained by influential academics early last century [Lind 2004, 1997; Jay 1973] in terms of Freud’s notion of ‘repression’, that though now thoroughly discredited [Webster 1995, Loftus & Ketcham 1994] was then ascendant, leading to the enormous popularity of ‘Freudian-Marxism’ in the latter part of last century — notably through the books of Erich Fromm. The putative vehicle of this was the family – a lead being taken from the anti-family notions of Engels. [Marx & Engels 1848] Falsely envisaging the family as an aberrant cultural development resulting from ‘capitalism’, ‘the workers’ were now regarded as psychologically dysfunctional. [Cerulo 1979] Marxist orthodoxy was replaced by a ‘cultural Marxism’ of personal relations; [Burston 1991] a creed popularised by later figures – famously, Marcuse. [Marcuse 1955] Through eliminating the ‘roles’ of mother and father, it was/is envisaged that all distinction between masculinity and femininity disappears, and with it the ‘patriarchy’ supposedly the foundation of ‘capitalism’. [Raehn 1996]
This avoided the transparent volte-face of holding ‘the workers’ directly culpable, but as the perceived head of the household, the man was held to be the incarnation of ‘oppression’ from which the woman should be liberated. So it was that ‘the workers’ as the former imagined ‘agents of change’ and the group destined to be ‘liberated’, were replaced by women (and ethnic minorities), heralding the ‘feminist Marxism’ we see today. [Kellner nd]
Given the belief that society consists of a war between a group with ‘power’ (men, ‘whites’) and groups without (women, ethnic minorities), and that reality is entirely the product of whichever group is perceived to hold ‘power’; [Green 2006] then it is imagined that reality is changed simply by asserting that the ‘powerless’ are to take the place of the ‘powerful’. Recapitulating ideation of the major religions, the future is deemed inevitable; the teleological driver of social development. This is really a new secular religion, with social development its transcendent ‘God’. Individuals are assumed to be at root good (after Rousseau); only superficially contaminated by ‘capitalism’. However, this is regarded as irredeemable without the ideology. As the philosopher John Gray has outlined at length, [Gray 2007] humanist political-philosophies, of which (neo-)Marxism is the apotheosis, are very much a residue of Christian thinking.
With the family as the putative key locus of conflict, the quintessential form of ‘oppression’ transferred from ‘the boss’ lording it over ‘the worker’ to the man dominating the woman. This is very evident in social work, [McLaughlin 2004] where state-employed professionals encounter D/IPV. The male D/IPV perpetrator is seen as the exemplification of male/female ‘power’ relations. Given that D/IPV in the female-to-male direction would fatally undermine this rationalisation of why ‘the revolution’ never materialised, then the occurrence and concept of such D/IPV had to be vigorously denied.
Human psychology in some of its other aspects is fertile ground for this ideation to take hold. From the biological principle that the female is the ‘limiting factor’ in reproduction, whereas she is privileged, prejudices evolved against the male through ‘policing’ within the male hierarchy to differentially allocate reproduction. [Moxon 2009] Still further to make the political developments just outlined plausible to ordinary people: men are reluctant to reveal D/IPV against them because any evidence of lack of respect others may feel towards them undermines their status, and thereby both their ability in male-male competition and acceptance by females. [Female in-group appears to function to propagate gossip, given its personal networking character and same-sex preference.] [Maddox & Brewer 2005; Goodwin & Rudman 2004] The self-serving utility of the contemporary political-philosophical mindset not just in eliminating cognitive-dissonance but also in furthering usual within-group status and in-group-/out-group competition, provides still more reinforcement. None of this requires explicit cognition, of course (and the more profound the motivation, the more implicit we might expect to be the associated cognition). [Di Conza et al 2006]
All in all, it should not be a surprise that what originated as an ostensibly bizarre notion in political-Left circles has evolved over the decades into a mainstream ‘given’ that is data proof, with no limit to the implausibility of retorts to evidence.
The house of cards collapses
The most elementary tactics of ‘gender paradigm’ proponents were (and remain) simply not to look at female-on-male D/IPV and to use clinical samples. Examining also in the female-to-male direction reveals D/IPV to be ‘non-gendered’ and actually predominantly by females. [reviews, eg, Feibert 2010] This has been ignored wholesale by the activist-research community, who categorise themselves as “responsible” researchers, spuriously eschewing empirical study as “act based”. [Dutton 2007]
A less blunt ruse was simply to analyse crime statistics, which is a serious distortion given that men are less likely than women to define themselves as victims, or view an assault by a woman as a crime, or to report victimization. [Straus & Gelles 1992] Straus & Gelles found female perpetration self-report of D/IPV to be more than twice the prevalence indicated by the victimisation self-reports of their male partners. For D/IPV in the other direction, reporting disparities reverse: women are an order-of-magnitude more likely to call police in response to partner assault. [Stets & Straus 1990] Victim status is anathema to the male need to show competitive ability in order to successfully compete intra-sexually for status, and thereby for sex. The norm of men being considered the ‘head of the household’ mean that they see violence by partners as their own failure. Even with the removal of the ‘demand characteristics’ of crime/personal safety surveys, there is still male sex-differential under-reporting of their victimisation. [Archer 1999] Yet UK Home Office crime figures year after year are that consistently males constitute 40% of D/IPV victims. Given the ‘demand characteristics’, the figures presumably hide a considerable preponderance of female perpetration; not merely nullifying but reversing the ‘gender paradigm’.
This spurred a retreat instead to focus on a supposed sex-differential injury rate, which is immediately distorting given that only a very small fraction of D/IPV so results. It was anyway debunked by reviews showing at worst a 2:1 ratio of injury according to sex, [Archer 2000] if not parity. [George 2003] This is many times less than would be expected even with similar perpetration by each sex, let alone if it were overwhelmingly male; by reason of the combined factors of much greater male upper-body strength and much weaker female body-frame. Still worse for the ‘gender paradigm’, in D/IPV involving serious injury, men considerably outnumber women victims. [Felson & Cares 2005]
The data was then deemed beside the point. Supposedly, the character of D/IPV is different according to the perpetrator’s sex: women don’t perpetrate and only retaliate. This is more than refuted by findings that of the half of D/IPV that is not mutual but unilateral, women are twice as likely as men to initiate [Anderson 2002, Ehrensaft & Vivian 1999]; or three times as likely; [Stets & Straus 1990]. Furthermore, if inquiry is restricted to serious DV/IPV, then this sex-differential doubles; rising to threefold [Stets & Straus 1990] or sixfold [Magdol et al 1997] Particularly illuminating, of all cross-sex stranger violence, females are responsible for two to three times the prevalence of that by men. [Morse 1995]
To try to get round these damning findings, female retaliation has been deemed self-defense, but this is no more cited by women than it is by men, [Carrado et al 1996, Harned 2001] and by only a minority of women. [Foo & Margolin 1995, Sommer 1994] In families where the woman is known to be violent, there is no evidence of self-defense; not least by testimony of relatives – notably the women’s own mothers. [Sarantakos 2004]. When self-defense is controlled for, sex-symmetry remains. [Bell 2008]
Implausible sex-dichotomisations then gave way to conceding that women indeed are perpetrators, but of a typologically distinct violence: ‘expressive’ as against ‘instrumental’ (to the imposition, supposedly, of ‘patriarchal’ ‘power’). This backfired as many studies revealed women to have instrumental beliefs at the root of their violence, and that when it came to D/IPV, women aggress just as instrumentally as do men. [Archer & Haigh 1999] A large proportion of what is considered male instrumental violence is likely to be attempted restraint, but there is no research on this. It is known that women often try to pass off their own unilateral violence as that by their victim, [Lewis & Sarantakos 2001] and it is particularly easy to misrepresent restraining behaviour.
Sex-symmetry of perpetration/ victimisation ostensibly has been conceded in the D/IPV typology of Michael P Johnson. [Johnson 2005, 2006]: ‘non-patriarchal’ mutual ‘situational couple violence’. However, Johnson considers this minor, with most, and most serious D/IPV being a supposed unilateral male ‘intimate terrorism’; females responding with ‘violent resistance’. This is dismissed by the above-cited data that it is the rarer, serious D/IPV where female perpetration is most predominant. Johnson’s false distinction of seriousness is the forced ‘gender paradigm’ insistence on ‘context’, whereby the seriousness of any aggression is according only to whether or not it is ‘patriarchal oppression’. Violence causing major injury then absurdly can be deemed to have less impact than mere verbal assertion of ‘patriarchal’ norms.
The distinction between ‘patriarchal’ and ‘non-patriarchal’ types, Johnson ascribes to ‘control’, but no ‘gendering’ of ‘control’ is found. [Graham-Kevan & Archer 2005, Graham-Kevan 2007] Furthermore, no difference between heterosexual and homosexual couples is apparent, entirely contrary to ‘gender paradigm’ prediction. [See further references of studies re sex-symmetry of ‘control’ in the discussion of mate-guarding below]
The final defensive barricade of the ‘gender paradigm’ – fear — was an attempt to replace objective measurement by subjective experience, rendering the ‘gender paradigm’ unfalsifiable. Fear is not too difficult to measure, but strongly implied is a pathologisation of female reaction to D/IPV without pointing to clinical-psychological sequelae. In fact, anxiety, depression and PTSD result from D/IPV for males just as for females, even with a full set of controls. [Callahan Tolman & Saunders 2003] There are no differences according to sex. [Pimlott-Kibjak & Cortina 2003, Coker Davis & Arias 2002]
The superficial plausibility of the ‘fear’ ploy is because it builds on the sexual dynamic of women signalling their vulnerability so as to elicit male response (stemming from the evolutionary logic of the female having potentially much more to lose). It would be expected that females evolved to express greater fearfulness and to be more fearful; and that this will manifest in sex-differential fear of crime. Yet research consistently reveals very small sex differences [Gilchrist et al 1989], and even these may be nullified and reversed if social pressure is controlled for. [Sutton & Farrall 2005] Gilchrist et al find many women non-fearful and many men the opposite. Even authors [Moore & Shepherd 2007] who explicitly challenge that the sex-difference is small, conclude that women are only 50% more fearful. That opposite social expectations according to sex play a part is suggested by the nil [Maccoby and Jacklin 1974] or almost nil sex-differences in fear evident through childhood into adolescence. [Else-Quest et al 2006] The low baseline of men’s fear means that a merely fractional greater predilection of women to experience fear does not amount to a consequential sex-difference.
There is no objective basis for women to significantly fear violence from conspecifics; notably males. Not only are assaults on females obviously comparatively rare, but males ‘hold back’. [This is a phenomenon that, presumably for the political reasons here at issue, appears hardly to have been researched; though Watson et al found that only a quarter of males fight back (compared to nearly half of females), and another quarter of males do nothing in response (compared to just 6% of females).] [Watson et al 2001] This phenomenon presumably is well understood by women intuitively.
It is merely assumed that fear is absent as a facet of the male experience even of iterated serious D/IPV, but research uncovers a multiplicity of serious impact; much of it specific to males. This concerns their sense of impotence in providing protection to their children, their more fragile link to family and possibly the sole source of emotional support this provides; and not least fear — to the point of precipitating psychosomatic symptoms. [Lewis & Sarantokos 2001]
The builder gets his cards and a proper house is built
The positing of supposed profound sex-differential ‘fear’ presupposes a basis of unidirectional inter-sexual violence. The theory underlying the ‘gender paradigm’ is that men and women have a ‘power’ relation. This hardly can be through competition because social system concerns competition over reproduction, which is intra-sexual. And any potential serious inter-sexual aggression presumably is skewed away from the male, because with the female being the ‘limiting factor’ in reproduction, there must have been selection for adaptation in males to reduce the likelihood of their sexual partners’ sustaining physical injury at their hands: the afore-mentioned phenomenon of the male ‘holding back’. If nevertheless there were any basis for women to fear violence from their partners, then the risk of male retaliation against their own violence would have necessitated the evolving of a female inhibition to strike a partner. No such inhibition is apparent: women may well be violent to their partners in a no-holds-barred fashion (as is evidenced by the above-cited three- or sixfold greater perpetration of serious D/IPV by women).
Illumination here comes from research into nightmares, [Schredl 2010] which for women are much less likely to feature violence; and persecutory delusions experienced by mental patients, [Walston, David & Charlton 1998] which feature familiar females (not males). Male violence apparently was not a significant phenomenon for women throughout evolutionary history.
The evolutionary understanding of the basis of male-to-female aggression is mate-guarding, which was assumed to be exclusively male, but female mate-guarding is observed as high levels of unilateral aggression in primates; eg, the mongoose lemur. [Anzenberger 1992, 1993] John Archer concluded that mate-guarding is at the root of D/IPV, and (though different in kind) both female and male. [Archer et al 2001; personal communication 2005]. This well-understood biological phenomenon is unlikely not to be the reason for ‘control’ in sexual relationships; the ‘ultimate’ reason, that is. The aetiology of ‘anxious attachment’ leading to ‘angry temperament’ [Follingstad et al 2002] may be a proximal explanation, but it begs the explanation proper. And note that the notion of ‘control’ here is not the ‘gender paradigm’ concept of affirming ‘patriarchal’ ‘power’. ‘Control’, however it is envisaged, is not ‘gendered’, but exhibited to a similar extent by both sexes. [Stets & Pirog-Good 1990, Walby & Allen 2004, Charles & Perreira 2007, Felson & Outlaw 2007] Its link with physical aggression is well established. [Stets 1988, Claes & Rosenthal 1990, Hause & Polek 1990, Dasgupta 1999, Felson & Outlaw 2007]
Rather than sex-symmetrical, this ‘control’ may be predominantly female. Megan Murphy [Vogel & Murphy 2007 finds that women are responsible for overseeing the relationship, with men just agreeing or giving in. David Vogel’s take on this is that women more than men tend to be domineering or dominant. Other research has shown ‘male-dominant’ couples to constitute less than ten percent of US families. [Coleman and Straus 1986] It is to be suspected that some studies revealing sex-symmetry may be hiding female preponderance. Graham-Kevan & Archer, for their 2009 paper, utilise their ‘Control Behaviours Scale’ based on: “examples of controlling behaviour consistently reported by both victims and perpetrators as being used by violent men against partners”. [Page 447.] Consequently, this will not detect any distinctively female forms of ‘control’.
To understand mate-guarding we have to examine the basis of the pair-bond. The usual assumption that it serves to ensure male paternity confidence presupposes paternal investment (a provisioning model), but important recent major reviews have shown usual understanding is false. Bernard Chapais [Chapais 2008] finds that pair-bonding was evolutionarily antecedent to paternal provisioning, and Jeffrey Winking [Winking 2007] concludes that having a male partner leads to the female investing more in her fertility. Pair-bonding appears to be a bargain between the sexes originally to serve the interests of women, with men then able to trade off some of any relative lack of mate-value by ‘honestly signaling’ their ‘reliability’ as a pair-bond partner (‘falling in love’). Men gain access to regular sex with a more fertile woman than otherwise could be secured. The problem posed to the male by a partner’s extra-pair sex therefore is not provisioning children not his own, but lost opportunity for sex with other females. The big question, with provisioning not at issue, is why the female invests more in her fertility given a male partner ‘honestly signaling’ fidelity? The intuitively obvious answer is sex-dichotomous mate-value trajectory. This accounts for all of the seemingly anomalous findings regarding mate-guarding by Graham-Kevan and Archer in their above-cited 2009 paper, as I will now explain.
As is commonly appreciated, human mate-value moves in opposite directions over time according to sex. Male mate-value is very much indicated by status, [Buss 2003, Okami & Shackelford 2001] and (especially for the males that females do not reject) this usually rises substantially, often well into middle-age. Physical attributes conferring male mate-value (notably height and facial features indicating high testosterone) clearly do not fade, or not until old age. By contrast, female mate-value obviously declines steeply with age; being very much a function of facial and bodily physical features indicating youth and fecundity: fertility. The effects of childbirth compound this.
It is usually understood by biologists that male mate-value concerns ‘good genes’, whereas female mate-value concerns fertility. On this understanding, the female functions as a vessel for inter-generational transfer of the ‘good genes’ supplied by the male. The deep biology here is that the male acts as the ‘genetic filter’ [Atmar 1991, Moxon 2009] for the whole lineage, to deal with the accumulation of gene replication error. Genetic mutation/combination that is deleterious (or, conversely, enhancing) to the genome, is by various mechanisms subject to much greater selection on the male half of the lineage. The female side of the lineage, on the other hand, is neutrally conservative of genetic material. The sole female mechanism to deal with the accumulation of gene replication error is a ‘primitive’ massive redundancy mechanism in respect of the genes controlling mitochondria. These genes are almost exclusively inherited female to female, in large numbers of copies available to replace any number of damaged genes. Presumably, the inordinate expense of this mechanism necessitated the evolution of the male ‘genetic filter’ system.
This sex-dichotomy is illustrated by recent findings regarding MHC (the major histocompatibility complex). It is the human male but not the female that employs as part of mate-choice criteria dissimilar MHC; that is, MHC in the female that is different to a male’s own. [Hanne, Simmons & Rhodes 2009] The male chooses according to complementarity: a combination to maximise hybrid vigour of offspring immunocompetence. The corresponding human female mate-choice criterion is MHC-diversity (heterozygosity), which indicates her would-be male partner’s own immunocompetence through hybrid vigour. The female is looking for MHC variety within the male; not across herself and her prospective mate. Thus, the female selects ‘good genes’, whereas the male selects to complement his own good genes in providing a vehicle for them to get through to the next generation.
In consequence of this sex-dichotomous mate-value trajectory, a woman has a distinct advantage in acquiring ‘good genes’ for her offspring if she forms a pair-bond to endure several years when she is at or near her peak mate-value, not long after puberty. She needs this same male to be there for regular sex once she has gestated/lactated her first child, in order to produce another child of similarly high genetic quality. [The human pair-bond is of just the right duration for this, at typically four years.] [Fisher 1994] She is less likely to do so if instead she conceives promiscuously, because the several years that have elapsed through gestation/ lactation and the resulting bodily changes, will have left her markedly less attractive. In the wake of this, there is an extension of the range of traits in respect of male ‘good genes’ to include ‘reliability’ as a partner.
Thus is easily explained the change in female mate-choice criteria according to the point reached in the ovulatory cycle. [Pillsworth & Haselton 2006] Rather than the more ‘feminine’ men (those more ‘reliable’ as pair-bond partners) preferred as pair-bond partners, women prefer sex with more ‘masculine’ males at mid-cycle (when maximally fertile), [Gangestad et al 2007] thereby facilitating extra-pair sex. With resources in themselves not the issue, and neither (when it comes to extra-pair sex) even that element of ‘good genes’ to do with male ‘reliability’; then it makes sense for the female to have extra-pair sex with a male possessing a greater loading of (‘proper’) ‘good genes’ than her pair-bonded partner.
Sex-dichotomous mate-value trajectory to explain female mate-guarding is a profound extension of the usual evolutionary explanation of mate-guarding as male-only. This echoes the contention by Archer [Archer 2001] that both sexes mate-guard to an extent that is similar but functionally distinct. The male-only model was tested and found wanting by Graham-Kevan & Archer, in that they revealed sex-symmetry: not only of ‘controlling’ behaviour, and of its link to physical aggression; but also that low (but not high) mate-value individuals of both sexes used more ‘control’ and physical aggression against their partners; and that more ‘control’ (though not more physical aggression) was used by both sexes when the female partner was fecund.
This set of findings is fully accounted for by the analysis put forward here. High mate-value individuals easily secure sex with correspondingly high mate-value partners, and consequently, lower mate-value individuals benefit most from pair-bonding and mate-guarding. The female increases her effective mate-value by extending it in time, as it were, from when it is at its highest shortly after puberty. The male conversely can bring forward, as it were, to shortly after puberty, his likely consistent or rising mate-value. That the nub of pair-bonding and mate-guarding is this dynamic (rather than investment in offspring), explains why mate-guarding by both sexes is greater when the female partner is fecund.
‘Sex-dichotomous mate-value trajectory’ is merely a precise labelling of an obvious fact of human existence, yet feminist ‘scholars’ [Wolf 1992] insist that female mate-value — youth/beauty — is a ‘patriarchal’ myth. This is an error born of a failure to recognise that female sexual allure when young is ‘power’ equivalent to male status. Status is rank within the male dominance hierarchy; this being a measure of male ‘good genes’. In any biologically salient sense, women can have no reason to acquire this. The serious mistake in imagining there to be some other than intra-sexual form of ‘power’, is to imagine that mate-value criteria are somehow cross-sex, when they are entirely different.
The greater need for women than for men to maintain the integrity of the pair-bond explains the stereotype regarding mate-guarding that until recently held sway (and in vernacular circles still pertains), of the wife who is either nagging or angrily wielding her rolling pin. This stereotype appears to be a genuine expression of folk wisdom: a rule-of-thumb take on the world as a result of protracted common observation.
The ‘gender paradigm’ contradicts this only by denying the voluminous D/IPV data, positing that the sex with less to lose by the dissolution of the pair-bond (and consequently mate-guarding less assiduously) nevertheless is more likely to be provoked to inter-sexual violence; this despite being the sex that is psychologically inhibited from perpetrating violence of that very form.
Rarely has a dead horse been flogged for so long. Not that the ‘gender paradigm’ was ever alive. It was a non-scientific concoction to save political face, that has shape-shifted to try to survive in the face of overwhelming data, and latterly the far more plausible scientific theory that surely is its death knell.
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