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Ayn Rand on Forbidding Sexual Displays in Public Places

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Why should kissing be allowed or disallowed at all? I'm thinking that a "no kissing" rule *is* a violation of individual rights more often than not because there isn't really much to point to in order to justify a rule disallowing kissing. Freedom of speech and all that jazz.

Because it is for the property owner to set the rules of use of their property. Since, as I've said, we're talking about public property, the actual owner of the property is not an individual... it is the public. So, how does the public go about setting rules? By politics (representative democracy). So long as the rules do not violate individual rights, if they are instituted by the proper legal process, they're valid.

There is no universal "right to kiss" anywhere, anytime. There's always a context.

...and please remember that I would argue against the existence of public parks. I'm merely pointing out that by having public parks does not logically require anarchy or "anything goes". You've just placed the standards for use of the property in the hands of the public. Now you need to use politics to arrive at those standards... (and objective law to determine whether or not the standard violates an individual RIGHT).

Rand's definition of rights and distinction between metaphysical freedom and political freedom are not in contradiction here at all.

"Freedom, in a political context, has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion."

-AR

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The shortcoming of Ayn Rand's defense of procedural restrictions on property use is that she did not identify explicitly the legal principle involved. Ayn Rand was not a lawyer so this is no surprise

The problem is that once you allow people's "offensiveness" to be the standard by which others' rights to use their own property is limited, then you have no argument against those who claim to be "of

Rand's definition of rights and distinction between metaphysical freedom and political freedom are not in contradiction here at all.

"Freedom, in a political context, has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion."

-AR

Rand's views on forbidding sexual displays in public places is the advocacy of an act of physical coercion. She was talking about using the state to physically prevent people from doing something which doesn't physically coerce anyone. That's what you're apparently not understanding.

J

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How about, "Showing any skin whatsoever is a disgusting display of sexuality, therefore everyone -- men, women and children alike -- must cover themselves completely by wearing burkas when in public, so as not to offend anyone else." Would that be a rights violation to you?...

Yes, if I cannot go about my daily life (and pursuit of happiness) without being forced to use said public areas.

Rand's views on forbidding sexual displays in public places is the advocacy of an act of physical coercion. She was talking about using the state to physically prevent people from doing something which doesn't physically coerce anyone. That's what you're apparently not understanding.

That is beyond contorted. There is simply no physical coercion.

Is this, to you, the same way that stunt car drivers are "forced" not to drive against oncoming traffic on public roads?!? Or how you are forced not to masturbate while walking down the street?

What you are not understanding are rights in a political context. (You're also grossly misunderstanding the meanings of coercion and force initiation).

Edited by freestyle
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Rand's views on forbidding sexual displays in public places is the advocacy of an act of physical coercion. She was talking about using the state to physically prevent people from doing something which doesn't physically coerce anyone. That's what you're apparently not understanding.

J

I remember having a disagreement with someone similar to this. He insisted that standing in my living room when I wanted him to leave was not an initiation of force, therefore I had no right to forcibly remove him and could not do so without myself initiating force. What is wrong with that thinking is the brutally literal focus on force as physical action or violence. If that were true it would be impossible to talk about fraud as indirect force.

Someone or some corporate or governmental institution will have the right by property to set the rules for use of a public space. Anyone going against those rules is violating that right. Even merely standing where you have no right to be is physically possessing by force the space you take up.

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Yes, if I cannot go about my daily life (and pursuit of happiness) without being forced to use said public areas.

Not being allowed to show any of your skin in public would not prevent you from going about your daily life. Women who wear burkas do it all the time. Therefore your "rights," at least as you define them, would not be violated if "the public" voted to require that everyone completely cover themselves when in public.

And, by your confused theory, "the public" would be within their "political rights" to imprison you (or perhaps even cane you or stone you?) if they caught you publicly showing some skin, and their doing so wouldn't be considered "physical coercion."

That is beyond contorted. There is simply no physical coercion.

What would happen if a person insisted on displaying nude images on his own property in an area where "the public" had banned such images? "The public" would use "physical coercion" against the offender to stop him from displaying the images, no? That would be the initiation of force.

Is this, to you, the same way that stunt car drivers are "forced" not to drive against oncoming traffic on public roads?!?

Driving into oncoming traffic, or over pedestrians for that matter, or into others' buildings or other property, would be an act of initiating force. Displaying images of nudes in one's own window, on the other hand, would not be an act of initiating force. This is really pretty simple stuff. Why are you having such a hard time with it?

Or how you are forced not to masturbate while walking down the street?

Someone's being physically prevented from masturbating while walking down the street is indeed the of initiation of force. Your (or mine, or anyone else's) discomfort with public masturbation, or with anything else, doesn't change that fact. Doing something which only visually upsets someone else is not physical coercion. Physically preventing people (or creating a law to threaten to physically prevent them) from doing something which only visually upsets others is physical coercion.

What you are not understanding are rights in a political context. (You're also grossly misunderstanding the meanings of coercion and force initiation).

The method of establishing rules and laws that you're proposing is not about "rights." You're misusing the term when claiming that there are "rights in a political context." What you're actually talking about is not rights, but the power to use initiatory force in a political context regardless of rights.

J

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Well, lets take this from SanFrancisco: http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=160644

First of all, let us note that people who want to be naked in public are never the people who you would want to see naked.

Second, we aren't talking about a sensible, reasonable, rational world, we're talking about the world we live in.

what does this mean?

We live in a collectivist nanny-state that occassionally humors freaks so as to seem as though civil rights still exist.

Lets talk about "progressive" cities that do everything they can to discourage driving because.. "that's bad..mmm-kay?" For example, several cities during the summer now close down whole neighborhoods to cars- coming &going- so that to get in or leave you must use public tranist (if needing to go somewhere too far for non-vehilcle transport). Forced by the government onto a bus I don't think it is a matter of squeemishness to not want to sit in spots that dirty naked asses have been.

Lets talk about businessess- how anyone who gets hurt on, near, behind, around or in the premises of a business can sue that business. I do NOT want to get sued when some idiot catches his dick in the door jam. Think a business can choose not to allow naked people in? Well, if the govt decides that being naked is ok then the govt can decide that businesses cannot exclude naked people. Why not?

Here's the problem- we can't even begin to talk about objective rights for public sex acts and nudity because there exists no real line between public and private any more. Your business is private you say? Well... how private is it? You can't decide who you will and will not hire, you cannot hire and fire at will, you cannot set the wages you choose to pay, depending on locale you may be restricted in your hours of business, your signage, your name.. everything. Similar restrictions are put on your home as well.

So, all things being equal, since rights don't really exist in any real form any way according to our government I'd rather not have to look at fat people's ugly junk if I don't have to.

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Lets talk about "progressive" cities that do everything they can to discourage driving because.. "that's bad..mmm-kay?" For example, several cities during the summer now close down whole neighborhoods to cars- coming &going- so that to get in or leave you must use public tranist (if needing to go somewhere too far for non-vehilcle transport).

In such cases, I think the Objectivist approach would be to oppose the idea of governments using their power to restrict people's freedom to choose which modes of transportation they wish to use, and not to hop on the government bandwagon and say, "Well, if our governments are intruding into our lives and telling everyone what they can and can't do, then I have a few things that I'd like to add to the list of rights-violating laws that I'd like to see enacted based on what I find offensive."

Forced by the government onto a bus I don't think it is a matter of squeemishness to not want to sit in spots that dirty naked asses have been.

People leaving butt residue is a whole different issue, and has nothing to do with merely being offended. It's the same thing as someone, say, spitting or carrying an item onto others' property which leaks a harmful substance. Butt residue can be a physical health hazard, and therefore, unlike merely seeing naked people or anything else that one might find offensive, it could legitimately be treated as an initiation of force.

Lets talk about businessess- how anyone who gets hurt on, near, behind, around or in the premises of a business can sue that business. I do NOT want to get sued when some idiot catches his dick in the door jam. Think a business can choose not to allow naked people in? Well, if the govt decides that being naked is ok then the govt can decide that businesses cannot exclude naked people. Why not?

Here's the problem- we can't even begin to talk about objective rights for public sex acts and nudity because there exists no real line between public and private any more. Your business is private you say? Well... how private is it? You can't decide who you will and will not hire, you cannot hire and fire at will, you cannot set the wages you choose to pay, depending on locale you may be restricted in your hours of business, your signage, your name.. everything. Similar restrictions are put on your home as well.

All of the above is true, but adding your own restrictions and right-violations to the ever-growing list isn't the way to get government out of our lives.

So, all things being equal, since rights don't really exist in any real form any way according to our government I'd rather not have to look at fat people's ugly junk if I don't have to.

Rights do exist. They're inalienable. They don't stop existing when not respected, and the increasing violation of your rights isn't a valid reason to join in the violating of everyone's rights with your own proposals.

J

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I was wondering if this should even continue, but...

Someone's being physically prevented from masturbating while walking down the street is indeed the of initiation of force. Your (or mine, or anyone else's) discomfort with public masturbation, or with anything else, doesn't change that fact. Doing something which only visually upsets someone else is not physical coercion. Physically preventing people (or creating a law to threaten to physically prevent them) from doing something which only visually upsets others is physical coercion.

Ah yes, the inalienable right of public masturbation. Are these rules and procedures for a civil society that we are discussing?

What if you knew it to be true that one could intentionally inflict psychological damage on another human being (easier with children)? Would that fall under your very liberal definition of PHYSICAL coercion?

It is you that is on the slippery slope. The standard is still whether or not a rule violates an individual's rights.

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I think that too understand Miss Rand's view here all someone has to do is envision a specific scenario. For example, some sort of sexual act such as a man masterbating in full view of children *on his own property* or in "public" should never be tolerated. It is a rights violation to children who don't have the capability to understand what is going on and just consider it a "nuisance".

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I was wondering if this should even continue, but...

Ah yes, the inalienable right of public masturbation. Are these rules and procedures for a civil society that we are discussing?

What if you knew it to be true that one could intentionally inflict psychological damage on another human being (easier with children)? Would that fall under your very liberal definition of PHYSICAL coercion?

It is you that is on the slippery slope. The standard is still whether or not a rule violates an individual's rights.

The appeal to psychological damage is a bad counter-argument because psychological damage is not objectively measurable by other people. A person might be able to judge the degree of his own psychological distress, but it cannot be demonstrated to other people.

The objective argument to make is that someone has the right to set the terms of the use of the street. Violating those terms is violating a right. Masturbating on a street can indeed be an initiation of force if the owner of the street prohibits such behavior. As rights violations go it shouldn't be a felony but it is enough to justify the use of force in removing the offender from the street.

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Ah yes, the inalienable right of public masturbation. Are these rules and procedures for a civil society that we are discussing?

We're discussing rights, not "rules and procedures for a civil society." Do you understand that there's a difference?

What if you knew it to be true that one could intentionally inflict psychological damage on another human being (easier with children)? Would that fall under your very liberal definition of PHYSICAL coercion?

Are you saying that images of humans in their natural state -- nude -- are so disturbing that they can cause psychological damage in other humans? Are you proposing the theory that viewing human sexuality and self-pleasuring is so horrific and mentally damaging that it can rise to the level of physical coercion? Sounds pretty silly to me. I think that images of man's natural state and of human sexuality only become traumatic to people who have been conditioned to believe that they're traumatic by societies which have puritanical religious mindsets.

J

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I'm having a little trouble with this new format myself, sorry for not using the quote feature properly.

Jonathan13, you replied this "

"Rights do exist. They're inalienable. They don't stop existing when not respected, and the increasing violation of your rights isn't a valid reason to join in the violating of everyone's rights with your own proposals."

to this statement of mine

"So, all things being equal, since So, all things being equal, since rights don't really exist in any real form any way according to our government I'd rather not have to look at fat people's ugly junk if I don't have to.

You aren't responding to what I actually said. Note that my statement was "rights don't really exist in any real form any way ***according to our government****"

Saying that our government doesn't acknowledge the existence of something is a very different thing from saying it doesn't exist.

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The appeal to psychological damage is a bad counter-argument because psychological damage is not objectively measurable by other people. A person might be able to judge the degree of his own psychological distress, but it cannot be demonstrated to other people.

That was a hypothetical for him to consider in conjunction with his claim that a rule preventing public masturbation around children is the initiation of physical force and a rights violation of the masturbator.

...on an aside, are you saying that there is no such thing as objective psychological damage, and that it could never be traced to a source?

The objective argument to make is that someone has the right to set the terms of the use of the street.

This is the argument I made.

We're discussing rights, not "rules and procedures for a civil society." Do you understand that there's a difference?

We were discussing whether particular rules violate individual rights. But I'm done now.

Are you saying that images of humans in their natural state -- nude -- are so disturbing that they can cause psychological damage in other humans?

No.

You, however, are saying that masturbating in public view is an inalienable right.

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That was a hypothetical for him to consider in conjunction with his claim that a rule preventing public masturbation around children is the initiation of physical force and a rights violation of the masturbator.

...on an aside, are you saying that there is no such thing as objective psychological damage, and that it could never be traced to a source?

We are in the context of public law and the justice system. How can anyone ever make a distinction between someone who really is traumatized and someone who is making it up and playing the victim just so they can sue or get someone into jail? Without fool-proof and spoof-proof mind reading powers no one can ever know the difference between a genuine victim and a liar to an objective standard of evidence necessary for a courtroom.

Psychologist's offices are not courtrooms. They are free to entertain whatever claims they want for the hourly rates they charge.

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You, however, are saying that masturbating in public view is an inalienable right.

Why isn't it a right just as much as reading Atlas Shrugged on a park bench, or wearing fishnet leggings when you clearly have better clothing options, or dressing up as a vampire for Halloween? As best as I could tell, the only argument suggesting sexual displays ought to be banned is because *someone* will find them icky or impolite, or a majority will find the displays uncomfortable. Nuisance makes sense to an extent, but I'm still a bit unsure what qualifies as enough of a nuisance to justify banning certain displays in public. We could just forget about sexual acts for now, as that is a thorny topic. However, what about nudity, absent of any sexual acts? Is it really any rights violation to walk around nude in public? Is it really even a nuisance?

Keep in mind by saying public, I'm only implying being visible to the public, not necessarily public property. If we're talking about public property, I would rather keep it to a higher standard than there would be for private property, meaning if a rule is irrational, it should be gotten rid of, especially when the response to breaking such a rule involves government force. There is no kind of harm done by not wearing clothes if you so choose, and absent private owners, people just have to deal with what bothers them.

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Why isn't it a right just as much as reading Atlas Shrugged on a park bench, or wearing fishnet leggings when you clearly have better clothing options, or dressing up as a vampire for Halloween?

At best, it is only as much of a right as those things within a specific context. These are not fundamental rights. Fundamental rights cannot conflict (two people cannot both have a right to the last piece of bread).

You cannot have a right to read Atlas Shrugged on a bench that someone else has the right to direct the purpose of its use (which doesn't allow masterpiece novel reading). You don't even have a right to be there without their consent.

As best as I could tell, the only argument suggesting sexual displays ought to be banned is because *someone* will find them icky or impolite, or a majority will find the displays uncomfortable.

No, the argument is that it is property not owned by the person wanting to use it in whatever way they want. If that use conflicts with the legitimate standards of the property owner, then that person has no right to use the property in that way.

If there is no physical coercion and you are FREE to avoid a particular place, you cannot make the claim that you have a right to use property you do not own in whatever way you feel like.

The fact that the land is public only means that the standards must be set by political means. Assuming you have a political system in place to set laws, as long as the standards are non-coercive and apply to all individuals, they're valid.

In some of the simple cases (like basic nudity) you might have the moral right, but that doesn't mean you have the political right.

"A 'right' does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort."

- AR

If you want to masturbate, do it on your property which you own. You cannot identify a right to do it on "our" property. If it is "our" property you must have legal consent from the owner(s). (Which, is exactly what Ayn rand points out when discussing the "un-consenting".

Ok... How close to a child's face must a stranger masturbate before it become a rights violation you will identify?

Keep in mind by saying public, I'm only implying being visible to the public, not necessarily public property. If we're talking about public property, I would rather keep it to a higher standard than there would be for private property, meaning if a rule is irrational, it should be gotten rid of, especially when the response to breaking such a rule involves government force. There is no kind of harm done by not wearing clothes if you so choose, and absent private owners, people just have to deal with what bothers them.

Again, I am for property being privately owned. However, just because the land is public it doesn't not follow that anything goes.

Edited by freestyle
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You, however, are saying that masturbating in public view is an inalienable right.

It seems as if you hope that you can intimidate or embarrass people into denying that we have certain rights. What's next? If I claim that people have the right to view whatever they wish, to put into their bodies anything they wish, and to destroy their own property in protest, are you going to respond with something like, "What you're really saying is that viewing pornography, smoking marijuana and burning flags are your favorite activities, which is why you claim that people have the 'right' to do them! You think that you have an inalienable right to be a pot head! Why do you love pot so much, you pot head, and why do you hate America so much that you want people to burn flags?!?!"

J

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It seems as if you hope that you can intimidate or embarrass people into denying that we have certain rights. What's next? If I claim that people have the right to view whatever they wish, to put into their bodies anything they wish, and to destroy their own property in protest, are you going to respond with something like, "What you're really saying is that viewing pornography, smoking marijuana and burning flags are your favorite activities, which is why you claim that people have the 'right' to do them! You think that you have an inalienable right to be a pot head! Why do you love pot so much, you pot head, and why do you hate America so much that you want people to burn flags?!?!"

Sorry if you're embarrassed, but you should be, defending that as an inalienable right. It means you don't understand what a right is.

You are constantly missing the argument and have NEVER once addressed the right of a property owner (be it an individual, corporation or THE PUBLIC) to set the purpose and rules of use of their property.

Why do you keep missing the point? Is it intentional? You do have a right to do those things above that you mentioned. It is just not an ABSOLUTE right that means you can do it on my property. And, as I stated above, if it is "our" property, then we need to set the standards by some sort of legal/political consent.

Edited by freestyle
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Sorry if you're embarrassed, but you should be, defending that as an inalienable right.

I'm not embarrassed. Reread what I wrote. I said that you appear to be hoping to intimidate or embarrass people, I did not say that I was embarrassed.

It means you don't understand what a right is.

You are constantly missing the argument and have NEVER once addressed the right of a property owner (be it an individual, corporation or THE PUBLIC) to set the purpose and rules of use of their property.

I have addressed the issue by saying that the Objectivist position, which I agree with, is not to be fooled into accepting the premise that the government, or "the public" as you like to call it, has the right to claim ownership or control over my property. It is not "their property," as you falsely call it.

Why do you keep missing the point? Is it intentional? You do have a right to do those things above that you mentioned. It is just not an ABSOLUTE right that means you can do it on my property. And, as I stated above, if it is "our" property, then we need to set the standards by some sort of legal/political consent.

Yeah, I got your point a long time ago: You seem to believe that if "we" assert that someone else's property is "our" property or "the public's property," then "we" have the "right" to set the rules of the use of the property.

So, to borrow your method of argumentation, what you're really arguing is that you have the "right" to steal others' property and masturbate on it if you convince enough of "the public" to go along with you. To you, might equals right.

J

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Again, I am for property being privately owned. However, just because the land is public it doesn't not follow that anything goes.

As far as public property is concerned, insofar as that is just the way things are and is hard to get rid of *anytime* soon, I'm using the word "rights" in the sense that there is some prevention of all out totalitarian control. Given that public property is essentially just government property, I'd rather have guarantees about being able to express myself how I would like, save for egregious violent actions, than to have some category of action banned for no particular rational reason. I guess all this discussion about standards to use about public property is a moot point, since neither of us want there to be public property, but as long as public property exists, there will be some control via unjustified force over how I live my life. It's better to reduce that unjustified force as much as possible.

The upcoming paragraph is assuming an ideal private property situation. Public in this context refers to what is visible to most people in public. I could look outside my front window and see some guy sunbathing on his property, naked. Can you legitimately prevent him from doing that, if you happen to find it disturbing? This is part of what I mean "just deal with it". There is no legitimate reason to forcibly stop him from doing that. At least, that's my conclusion right now. There isn't any kind of interference with your property usage, except you might happen to dislike what you see. I don't think being in public really alters any fundamental principle of using your own property how you wish.

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I would think that your notion of "political freedom" would mean that people are "free" when legally restricted to discussing their views in private, and never in places that are "open to the public" lest someone be "offended" by views that they (or the majority of their "community") find "loathsome." Is that what "freedom" means to you?

J

I'm jumping in a bit late here but it occurs to me that the principle involved here applies just as much to religious displays (such as mangers in a public setting) or religious speech (such as invocations or prayers at a school graduation.). In order to be 100% consistent, Johnathan, you must insist that such public exercise of religion cannot be restricted. I highly suspect that this will inspire a reconsideration but I could be mistaken.

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So, to borrow your method of argumentation, what you're really arguing is that you have the "right" to steal others' property and masturbate on it if you convince enough of "the public" to go along with you. To you, might equals right.

You are misunderstanding a lot it seems about what freestyle is saying. I think the point is just that IF a piece of property is public, THEN standards of use are up to "the public" to decide. Which is, unfortunately, the same as might equals right. But I don't think that the "then" necessarily follows.

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You are misunderstanding a lot it seems about what freestyle is saying. I think the point is just that IF a piece of property is public, THEN standards of use are up to "the public" to decide. Which is, unfortunately, the same as might equals right. But I don't think that the "then" necessarily follows.

Actually, wouldn't it have to necessarily follow? How does one exercise ownership without control over it's use?

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I'm jumping in a bit late here but it occurs to me that the principle involved here applies just as much to religious displays (such as mangers in a public setting) or religious speech (such as invocations or prayers at a school graduation.). In order to be 100% consistent, Johnathan, you must insist that such public exercise of religion cannot be restricted. I highly suspect that this will inspire a reconsideration but I could be mistaken.

I don't accept the premise that the government should be running schools, so, no, my view is not that "we" have the "right" to ban religious activities at school graduations, but that "we" don't have the right to have government schools.

J

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I don't accept the premise that the government should be running schools, so, no, my view is not that "we" have the "right" to ban religious activities at school graduations, but that "we" don't have the right to have government schools.

J

Neither did Ayn Rand but she still insisted that the principle of ownership applies. The issue is who controls what happens on property. The owners or whoever wishes to use property regardless of how the owners wish it to be used?

Edited by Craig24
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