Friday, December 19, 2014

Not That Kind of Blog: Let's Talk about Porn


Today I want to talk about something a little out of the norm.

Porn.  As in pornography.

Not food porn, "inspiration porn" or some other fake porn, but actual x-rated, naked, sex filled, porn.

When I was in the second grade I remember going to my friends house after school.  For some reason that day we went into her basement--a place I don't remember ever going to before or since.  It was a dirty, unfinished basement type of basement with junk everywhere.  I don't remember much else from this excursion other than coming across one of her father's Playboy magazines and for the first time in my life (I think) seeing a pornographic picture.  I wouldn't know it at the time, but that picture was about to be ingrained in my mind forever, because to this day I can describe vivid details about that picture.  Fortunately, it wasn't "that bad"... you know, for porn.

That wouldn't be the last time I came across porn in my childhood and like that first image, many images are still ingrained in my mind, with some a lot more ugly and raunchy than that first one.

I read a book a number of years ago called "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" and I remember the author talking about images and how one of the problems of television (this was written a while back, so definitely pre-dating the internet) is that as you sit there letting whatever images flicker onto the screen in front of you get inside your head and once an image flashes in front of your eyes you can't unsee it.  Images are so powerful because of their ability to live forever in our minds.  I'm paraphrasing, but as I read that I immediately connected his words to these experiences I had as a kid and to the problem of pornography in general.  Today the magazine images of my youth were nothing compared to the onslought of degradation and dehumanization that today's porn market is bringing into the world.

I want to talk about this today because for our children this is a game-changer.  This is not your grandpa's pornography so to speak.

Of course being a born and raised Mormon girl the idea that pornography is bad for you is not a new idea for me.  And I get that not everyone agrees with this sentiment.  But as I recently read,

Those who think that porn is a harmless and natural way to express sexuality have a tendency to stereotype those that think differently as "overly-religious prudes" or "right wing extremists" or something of the kind.  But this isn't about religion, or politics, or anything else.  

It's about science.

That snippet comes from an organization I want to tell you about called Fight The New Drug.  This is an organization dedicated to fighting against pornography and the myriad of harmful affects it has on  individuals, relationships and society as a whole.  Society?  you say?  Did you know that sex trafficking and porn go hand in hand?  While shocking, this does not surprise me in the least.  I started following FTND on Instagram and have been impressed with their blog and their dedication to spreading awareness.  Try reading some of their posts like, True Story: My Father Chose Porn Over Me or Ex-Porn Producer shares Mindy's story... pretty eye opening.  What I love about Fight The New Drug is that they are not afraid to tell it like it is, there is no good porn, even a little porn can be harmful and we all need to take a stand and stop falling for the lies the porn industry is trying to sell.

There are so many articles and talks out there I could cite right now, but here are just a few.  Young and otherwise health men are suffering from a new phenomenon called Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction.  Yes, porn doesn't just mess with your brain, it actually messes with normal sexual response.  What about Internet Porn is an Experiment in Dehumanization?  I don't see how anyone could call themselves a feminist and be pro-pornography.

But the article that really turned my stomach and made me realize I can't just sit back and hope this plague quietly passes was this one from the UK entitled, Jamie is 13 and hasn't even kissed a girl.  But he's now on the sex offender register after online porn warped his mind...

For parents this is a must read as a therapist discusses this large uptick in children becoming addicted to porn before they've even had their first kiss, many "becoming child abusers while they are still children themselves."

The author states, "Of course, critics who oppose restrictions will say pornography has always been with us, young boys have always looked at risqué magazines.  Yet the advent of the internet--and particularly broadband over the past decated--means that never in human history has such a vast and relentless amount of it been so easily and freely available to all.... It means any child who has started to feel vaguely curious about sex can tap that same three-letter word into a search engine, and in a split second have access to thousands of graphic video clips.  As a therapist I'm convinced that these images can be deeply traumatizing to children--not the lest because a competitive market means that pornographers are trying to outdo each other to come up with the most extreme images.... For many young boys [and I would add kids], this means their first sexual experience is not a nervously negotiated request for a dance from a girl at the end of the school disco.  It is watching grotesquely degrading images of women, all too often mixed in with violent abuse."

The bottom line:  My kids.  Our kids.

If I could be exposed to a handful of magazines during my grade school years--magazines that had to be purchased in person, by someone of age back in the mid to late 80's--we know at some point our kids, boys and girls, are going to be exposed to this stuff in some form because it is free and made to be addictive.  One study cites that boys as young as 10 start seeking out online pornography on their own.  It frightens me to think that in a few years my girls will be associating with peers who will be regularly viewing these disturbing and graphic images--images that as an adult I can't even begin to fathom.  I'm scared to think of young boys (and girls) that will start viewing my daughters as objects before they've even held a girls hand.  This idea is beyond frightening to me.

So what can we do?  I want to hear your thoughts, but first here are a couple of mine.

One, that's why I wanted to share Fight the New Drug with you as I feel that this is such a great resource.  Read, become informed, get help if you need it, be a fighter and take a stand.  The whole safety in numbers thing?  Yeah it helps to know there are thousand of people who don't think porn is good, harmless or normal.  There are even some really big companies taking a stand against pornography--good to know!  FTND is not there to shame anyone who is struggling with porn (as they know many people become addicted as children), they offer assistance to those seeking help and more than anything they want to stop spreading the lies behind porn's glamorous and sexy facade.  Their main message is simple:  Porn kills love.

Additionally, a few months ago I realized that sooner or later my children are going to know about pornography.  As sick as that thought is I can't stop that from happening.  But I decided that if they're going to hear about it, they're going to hear about it from their loving parents first.  As much as I hate that the fact that there is a need to talk to my children about this at their tender ages, it is so much better to get to them first!  B and I wanted to arm them with age appropriate knowledge to help protect themselves from the dangers of porn and to open the discussion early so that they know they can always come and talk to us.  We purchased the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures:  Porn-proofing Today's Young Kids and read it with our girls over several days.  It's very simple, non-denominational (non-religious even) and walks kids through an age appropriate discussion on pornography, how it affects your brain and even has a step-by-step approach for kids to follow if/when they see a pornographic image.  It was not my favorite thing to do with my kids, but I already feel so much better knowing that we've opened this subject and put it out on the table for them.


OK--honestly, my head hurts from writing all of this so now it's your turn, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Don't bother trying to tell my porn isn't that bad or whatever, I'm so beyond that... but I'd love to hear your thoughts on porn as it relates to you, your family, and especially your kids.  Have you been pro-active about discussing porn with your kids?  If so, how and what did you say?  Have you done anything else to become pro-active in the fight against pornography?  Do you think there is a need to fight against it?  What about boys vs. girls... do you feel like you worry less if you have girls?  Or worry differently?  Any other good resources out there we should know about?  

30 comments:

  1. Amen! Do you remember when we talked about this in Inwood with the Relief Society? It was eye opening. There are also studies that show that our stimulus response in our brains are messed up when they view pornography, and it literally shrinks our brains. See http://fightthenewdrug.org/porn-changes-the-brain/#sthash.csSEoqza.dpbs. I am interested how you are going to teach your children to stand against pornography. On my blog, in the next couple of weeks, I hope to get my MIL to write about the a great empowering acronym that was specifically set up by a team of specialists that helps children to step away. I think it is also important to show companies that we care what they put in front of our children and to give them ideas on how they can avoid it. I wrote to Hulu last week (http://dearestplace.blogspot.com/2014/12/letter-for-hulu-please-protect-family.html) and they replied (http://dearestplace.blogspot.com/2014/12/hulus-reply.html). Thank you for you words!

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  2. VDG--I don't remember that talk...I guess there have been many over the years. Ha! But that's great you wrote to Hulu and even better that they wrote back and know that this is an important issue.

    As far as teaching our kids, reading the book "Good pictures, bad pictures" was a great first start. I know we'll need to review it periodically. They have an action plan for kids that basically tells them if they see something pornographic to say out loud, "That's pornography!" then get away from what they saw as quickly as possible, even telling them to close their eyes (because seconds count) and go find an adult. Again, we'll have to review this with our kids and I know that isn't something they're always going to do (as they get older and this becomes something they may encounter with friends for example), but I hope they always know they can talk to us about it. Another thing I'm trying to do by talking to my children is removing the shame and secrecy of porn. I want them to know their mom and dad are always safe people they can talk to.

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  3. Anonymous12:14 PM

    I love how you addressed this and applaud you for the steps you are taking to protect your girls. Pornography ruined my cousins! Their father didn't want them to be gay so he bought the magazines for them (late 60's-early 70's). My brother, sister and I are much younger and they purposefully left out a magazine to shock us. I was 8 and like you, I still remember vivid details about what I saw. Disgusting! I have been very proactive about dealing with this topic with my sons. I am fortunate that I have a husband who is also disgusted by porn. This is a fight we will be fighting for years to come and one that will never take a backseat to society. Thank you for the resources you provided. I will be sharing them with my sons because we can never be too quiet for too long on this topic.
    BTW, a few years ago our pastor discussed this at church. What shocked me was when he said the fastest growing group of pornography viewing was married women. He used the statistics to prove that husbands are failing their wives if they have to turn to porn. God created sex for beauty and man has destroyed it.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in Anon! It sounds like your Uncle was just way off in so many respects (trying to 'cure' homosexuality to begin with, then doing it with porn--gah!) And I'm so glad you've been very proactive with your sons... as parents we cannot leave this conversation unsaid. If you read the article I posted above about Jaime the 13 year old boy his parents had NO IDEA he was doing this day after day until a knock on the door from the police seizing computers because Jamie was accessing child pornography.

      The only thing I disagree with was when you said "husbands are failing their wives if they have to turn to porn." I firmly believe that it is not the other spouse's fault if one spouse starts dabbling in porn or becomes addicted to porn. The idea that "he/she wouldn't look at it if they were getting enough at home" is false and outdated. I love that your pastor brought up the fact that women are just as susceptible as men when it comes to porn and addiction--I definitely think that needs to be talked about more (also why I don't assume that just because I have 3 girls, this won't affect them) but the idea that their husbands failed them? I disagree. I don't blame wives when their husbands have porn issues and I won't blame husbands either.

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    2. Anonymous9:26 AM

      Hi Miggy, When I read that phrase in that comment about husbands failing their wives, I read it to mean husbands failing in their responsibilities towards their wives, as in husbands failing the marriage vow, husbands failing the family unit, and husbands failing their wives' expectations....in short, husbands failing. I read it as husbands not living up to their wives' vision and understanding of a marriage and failing the marriage. I might have to post as Anonymous, too, because there is no Yahoo option. This is Mel in Fort Collins. I enjoy your blog a lot. Take care.

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    3. Hey Mel--

      Perhaps I assumed wrong... however I've heard that argument before and I just wanted to make sure that I didn't agree, if in fact that's what the pastor was saying. Perhaps Anon could clarify.

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  4. Oh I have so much to say! but, mainly I'm just so happy you posted this. I think the number one thing is that as parents we don't have to be afraid of porn. We can prepare our children to deal with it when they see it. We can educate ourselves and our children, and create environments of safety. But, it does take a lot of paying attention and a lot of work. I read "He Restoreth My Soul". It's a Christian perspective of pornography addiction recovery—and I was so struck by all the case studies of the people (men and women) affected by pornography addiction AND food addiction (they are very similar). I was struck because so many of them—the problems started as children and they didn't have an adult to talk to or notice that they were having a hard time. Talking about things is so important. Also: I don't know how any one can support the objectification of women AND men in pornography. It is so dehumanizing! gah! I want to just yell whenever I hear about it. I have to end this note now. love you!

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    1. Interesting to hear about the link between food addiction and porn addiction. In general I know addictions have a lot of common threads--do you think the food/porn link is stronger than most just general addictive behavior?

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  5. We have been watching ABC Family a few times this week because they have had some children's holiday movies on and their commercials are awful. They have multiple Victoria's Secret commercials, and commercials for sitcoms dealing with teen sex. Why is this appropriate for children's programming? Children today are exposed to so much at such a young age and at that young age are being desensitized. My children will not be watching ABC Family again. We need to teach our children what real love is and not what the media is telling them.

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    1. Wendy--

      Yeah, I've noticed the same thing with ABCFamily... in general TV is just a lot more permissive. I know boundaries are going to get pushed and pushed, but sometimes I wonder when will we hit the wall? Is there a wall? Yes the media is a tricky thing. As someone who loves pop culture, movies, etc it's hard to know where to draw the line sometimes.

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  6. Thanks so much for this article. You articulated so many of my feelings exactly. I have a son and three daughters and I am terrified that they are growing up in a world so full of disrespect and degradation towards women. Unfortunately my husband has been caught in the clutches of pornography addiction for years (since he was a young teen) and I know too well the heartbreak it causes. Thanks so much for your link to FTND. I'm going to check this out. It is something I feel passionately about and have been considering getting involved in spreading the word about the horrors of pornography but haven't known how.

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    1. Bessaroni--I definitely think FTND is a great place to start. Like you I want to be more involved but didn't always know how. They have great resources to share and ways to support the movement.

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  7. One of the first things our family did was take the porn "discussion" out of the back room and to the dinner table. It's no longer a hushed discussion, but right there with the "we don't smoke, we don't do drugs, we don't toy with Porn."

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    1. Rebecca--

      Exactly! I think this is so important. In fact just riding in the car tonight PSP said, "Mom, what's a B****." For a second I was a deer in headlights, but then we just talked about the word, what it meant, where she heard it, etc. I remember being a kid and showing my parents the middle finger and asking them what it meant (I had step-parents at a young age and this was actually one of them--trying not to throw anyone under the bus here) and instead of teaching me and telling what was up, my step parent kinda flipped and I got spanked, punished... the whole nine yards and I had no idea what I had done, and still didn't know what my dang middle finger meant! So yeah... how we handle these things as parents is so important and removing the SHAME from these things in my perspective is key.

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  8. Like the comment about the women and porn thing - the whole 50 shades of grey mania made me completely sick and angry. Also disappointed that this subject has crept into so many "family" tv shows as a "haha" joke here and there and dismissal as completely normal.

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    1. Christina--

      Yes there are so many shows (I'm looking at you Friends) that normalized the use of porn. Not cool.

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  9. Fight the New Drug and their Fortify program are amazing with their scientific research and education. Porn kills love.

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  10. Anonymous3:59 AM

    Thank you so much for addressing this topic, Miggy.
    I have nothing to add to what has been said and I don't know if I can put my thoughts in English, but nevertheless I try to speak my mind :P.
    I think that porn is physically and emotionally harmful for porn actresses and dangerous for every other woman, because desensitized its viewers towards violence against women and, even worse, it conditions their minds and bodies to react with sexual arousal to degradation and abuse (physical, sexual and verbal) of women.
    It sells lies about human (particularly femal) sexuality for the sake of pornographers's gain.
    I'm childless, but if I had children I would be concerned as much as you. I have to say, as a single woman still in the dating game, that I'm afraid for myself, too.
    As has already been said in the above comments, even the romanticizing of abusive relationships by "50 shades of greys" and similar products worries me, a lot.
    At least, it seems that in the English speaking world there is a debat about porn, here there isn't, to watch porn is widely considered just a normal thing, that so called "sexuologists" that write in popular magazine suggest to do for add spice to your sexual life. If you oppose it, you are labeled as an extremist catholic (religion is just catholicism here) :(

    PS I really appreciate the way you mix topics in your blog: family life, art, crafts, disability and, time to time, heavier topics like this. The content choices of a lot of other bloggers is monotonous and gives the impression that they live in a bubble.

    Liseli

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    1. Liseli--Thank you so much. I've always just tried to be myself on this blog and I'm glad that resonates with others.

      And yes the fact that porn desensitizes its viewers towards violence against women AND condition the body to be aroused by abuse is sick and completely backwards to me. And now I'm curious as to where you live--though I still think we have a long way to go for society as a whole to see pornography as unhealthy and bad for you.

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    2. Anonymous6:37 AM

      Italy.
      (Maybe I have to clarify: I didn't mean that everybody watches tons of porn here, just that it's common sense that there isn't nothing wrong in watching porn if you enjoy it and there aren't critical voices against it in the media, so you are seen as prude and judgmental if you criticize it).

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  11. Alessandra6:54 PM

    Miggy, I love you so much please don't think I'm criticizing you: just pointing out that your "money shot" joke on Instagram is kind of porny (even though I know you didn't intend it that way). I think the porn industry has ruined that term forever.

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    1. Alessandra--

      Wow--I had to look that one up on urban dictionary. Neither me or my husband knew that term had any connection to porn. I've heard that term used a bazillion times and never once thought twice about it. I'm wondering if this is common knowledge or if we're just really in the dark. Thanks for the heads up (is that porn related too? See, this is another thing I hate about our society, so many common words and phrases can't be said without some sexual connotation added to them. Ay-i-i-i...).

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    2. Alessandra10:24 PM

      I know, and I feel terrible about being the person to tell you that! So many things in my language too this has happened to (I am Italian). I learned that years ago from my brother, and he is (now) a Catholic priest! Ick.

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  12. Anonymous3:39 PM

    n thats why I read your blog regularly..

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  13. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Our son ended up toying with porn without our knowledge years ago because his older sisters had Victoria Secrets catalogs which they got because they liked the clothing sold in the catalogs. It honestly didn't even compute to me at the time that those catalogs could be addictive to a young teenage boy until I found them years later under his bed when we were moving. It then clicked why we had had -- what I thought was an erroneous bill from an online porn site a few years earlier -- which I had disputed because I KNEW no-one in our family would have been on a porn site -- including this same young teenage boy! I also then knew why he had decided at sixteen that he wasn't worthy to pass the Sacrament in our Church -- so he never did -- which eventually led him to become an inactive member -- which he still is. Thus, I think that your focus on getting all of this out in the open, when kids are very young, is a good idea. I also found, through my own experience, that the blue scenes in Romance literature can be addicting -- even if they are only mildly suggestive; as the "kick" you get out of reading them soon requires more explicit wording. That experience taught me that it doesn't take much to begin that addictive process in your mind (and may be how some women begin to get hooked on porn as so many woman read romance literature). I also learned, through that experience, just how hard it is to give up porn -- as it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do to get rid of those -- even mildly suggestive Regency Romances -- which I had purposefully chosen to read over other romance literature because I thought it would be benign -- and most of them were, but not all of them!

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  14. A single study of 19 self-identified "porn addicts" is slender grounds to hang an entire theory that any salacious material-- from romance novels to snuff films, without distinction-- is going to turn people into sexual predators.

    Men's Rights Activists' self-righteous ranting poses a far greater greater threat to your daughters' safety when they reach dating age than enthusiastically-consensual sex scenes in R-rated movies. Fighting Rape Culture and human sex trafficking is the best way to combat the truly toxic porn, not screaming "OMG! It's porn! EEEVIIILLL!!!" at any titillating content.

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    1. Astrin---Hmmmm, not sure we're talking about the same stuff here. I didn't even mention R-rated movies so I'm not sure where you got that. And while I agreed with one commenter above about where to draw the line with television becoming more permissive all the time, my actual post above wasn't about "any salacious material--from romance novels to snuff films." I'm talking about hard core porn that often depicts women in violently sexual acts (i.e. rape...which I believe is directly tied to rape culture... you know if people are watching rape-like scenes for entertainment and worse, to become sexually aroused) usually being abused and degraded by multiple men. Granted, I haven't seen this stuff myself, but like heroine or cocaine, I'm satisfied with taking other people's word on it. And I'm not sure about the "single study of 19 self identified porn addicts" either because if you've taken a look at Fight the New Drug they cite many, many different studies and they share many personal stories from people who have dealt with the problem of porn in one way or another. Again, they say they've received thousands of emails from people all over the world. Didn't double check that stat, but I'm not someone that needs a bazillion facts and research to tell me what already seems obvious. (Breast milk is better than formula! Too much alcohol hurts your brain! Study shows sleep deprivation is bad for your health!) I find that we rely on science a little bit too much and common sense and instincts not enough.

      I DO agree that rape culture and human sex trafficking are huge problem AND very much tied to the porn industry. In fact I linked to an article (again from FTND) that talks about the direct relationship of sex trafficking and porn. Rape culture...yes really bad as well. Again, I don't think you can really be a feminist and pro-porn.

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    2. I suppose I should have linked my reply directly to the commenters who were calling romance novels and television scenes "porn"-- Sorry!

      To my memory, the MRI study was the only hard science study cited. And much more study is needed to determine whether excessive porn watching causes brain anomalies OR if people with messed-up brains are more likely to watch a lot of porn.

      Anecdotal reports can be valuable, but they're also extremely subjective-- for the scientists as well as the subject. If someone already feels that porn is a Bad Thing and feels guilty about watching it, they might tend to attribute their sexual and relationship problems to their watching porn, even though the causality is the other way around-- they watch the porn because they lack the interpersonal skills to deal with their relationship problems successfully.

      And social science is rife with discredited researchers who subconsciously-- or consciously!-- skewed their research design to generate exactly the results which verified their prejudices. Stephen Jay Gould's 'The Mismeasure of Man' describes this phenomenon.

      I don't know this "rape porn", but I read a lot of fanfiction. If I come across a sex scene that's not to my tastes, I use the back button or the scroll bar. (The choice of which I use depends on how well-written the rest of the story is.) So I'd say if someone persists in watching a rape-themed porn video, it shows they have a preexisting misogynistic and violent attitude toward women. Guys rape because they feel entitled to do what they want to women, not because they watched some porn and got horny.

      And um, Rape Culture predates the invention of video technology by centuries, if not millennia. But we can agree that human trafficking needs to be stopped NOW because of the harm done to the victims.

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  15. Just catching up on your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about pornography. We have the book you mentioned, Good Pictures, Bad Pictures. I agree that we need to talk about this stuff very early, often, and clearly with our children. I also agree that feminism and not seeing the problem with porn don't mix. Thank you for standing up for this, as you seem to have a lot of readers! I have seen friends' marriage relationships nearly ruined due to this issue, and I have also seen the porn addict get help, keep commitments, and major miracles happen. It was interesting to read various perspectives on this issue. I also agree with your common sense approach. If it weren't an issue, why would we still be talking about it?

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