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Trust a Scientist: Sex Addiction Is a Myth

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By Jim Pfaus

A psychologist explains why sex addiction therapy is more about faith than facts, as told to Tierney Finster

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Self-labeled sex addicts often speak about their identities very clinically, as if they’re paralyzed by a scientific condition that functions the same way as drug and alcohol addiction. But sex and porn “addiction” are NOT the same as alcoholism or a cocaine habit. In fact, hypersexuality and porn obsessions are not addictions at all. They’re not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and by definition, they don’t constitute what most researchers understand to be addiction.

Here’s why: addicts withdraw. When you lock a dope fiend in a room without any dope, the lack of drugs will cause an immediate physiological response — some of which is visible, some of which we can only track from within the body. During withdrawal, the brains of addicts create junctions between nerve cells containing the neurotransmitter GABA. This process more or less inhibits the brain systems usually excited by drug-related cues — something we never see in the brains of so-called sex and porn addicts.

A sex addict without sex is much more like a teenager without their smartphone. Imagine a kid playing Angry Birds. He seems obsessed, but once the game is off and it’s time for dinner, he unplugs. He might wish he was still playing, but he doesn’t get the shakes at the dinner table. There’s nothing going on in his brain that creates an uncontrollable imbalance.

The same goes for a guy obsessed with watching porn. He might prefer to endlessly watch porn, but when he’s unable to, no withdrawal indicative of addiction occurs. He’ll never be physically addicted. He’ll just be horny, which for many of us, is merely a sign we’re alive.

There haven’t been any studies that speak to this directly. As such, the anti-fapper narrative is usually the only point discussed: Guys stop masturbating after they stop downloading porn, and after a few days, they say they’re able to get normal erections again. This coincides with the somewhat popular idea that watching porn leads to erectile dysfunction, a position that porn-addiction advocates such as Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson state emphatically. (Robinson wrote a book on the subject, though her degree is in law, not science, and Wilson, a retired physiology teacher, presented a TED Talk about hyperstimulation in Glasgow.) These types of advocates are wedded to the idea that porn is an uncontrolled stimulus the brain gets addicted to because of the dopamine release it causes. According to their thinking, anything that causes dopamine release is addictive.

But there’s a difference between compulsion and addiction. Addiction can’t be stopped without major consequence, including new brain activity. Compulsive behavior can be stopped; it’s just difficult to do so. In other words, being “out of control” isn’t a universal symptom of addiction.

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Then what, exactly, does it mean when Tiger Woods and Josh Duggar go to rehab for sex addiction? Or when Dr. Drew offers it up on TV for washed-up celebrities? The answer is simple: They’re giving free marketing to the new American industry of sex addiction therapy. Reformers Unanimous, the faith-based treatment program chosen by Duggar, is likely to gain a number of new patients thanks to the media frenzy surrounding his admission to their facilities after the Ashley Madison hack exposed the affairs Duggar blamed on porn addiction.

These programs are similar to traditional 12-step models, except even more informed by faith. By misdiagnosing patients from the start, they gloss over the underlying issues that might make someone more prone to compulsive sexual behaviors, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. Plenty of compulsive and ritualistic sexual behaviors aren’t addictions; they’re symptomatic of other issues.

Unfortunately, that’s just scratching the surface of the faulty science practiced by these recovery centers. For instance, according to proponents of the sex addiction industry, the more porn someone watches, the more they’ll experience erectile dysfunction. However, my recent study with Nicole Prause, a psychophysiologist and neuroscientist at UCLA, showed that’s absurd. While advocates of sex and porn addiction are quick to correlate the amount of porn a guy looks at to how desensitized his penis is, our study showed that watching immense amounts of porn made men more sensitive to less explicit stimuli. Simply put, men who regularly watched porn at home were more aroused while watching porn in the lab than the men in the control group. They were able to get erections quicker and had no trouble maintaining them, even when the porn being watched was “vanilla” (i.e., free of hardcore sex acts like bondage).

There is, of course, other evidence that porn isn’t a slippery slope to physical or mental dysfunction. A paper just came out in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy from German researchers that looked at both the amount of porn consumed by German and Polish men and women and their sexual attitudes and behaviors. It found that more porn watched meant more variety of sexual activity — for both sexes.

Despite these results, there’s still an entire publication, Sex Addiction & Compulsivity, committed to demonstrating that porn creates erectile dysfunction. Its very existence suggests sex addiction and its treatments are real, yet the journal doesn’t take a stance on any particular treatments. And while its resolutions come from peer-reviewed articles, these articles only get reviewed by people who already believe in the notion of sex addiction.

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Which is why the journal has zero impact. The number of times a scientific journal gets used in other scholarly work is measured by something called the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). That number determines a journal’s official impact factor. So far, Sex Addiction & Compulsivity has a JCR impact factor of 0.00. Nobody cites anything from it, except maybe their own cult of followers who publish on blogs and personal websites.

The journal benefits from a very 21st century way of creating a veneer of objectivity. As long as there are papers in it, people can cite them as “scientific.” Even if the work — and the people who oversee it — are anything but. An influential associate editor there is David Delmonico, a professor who runs an “internet behavior consulting company” that offers “intervention for problematic Internet behaviors.” He believes sex addiction is real because he’s wary of the supposedly horrible effects the internet (and all the porn there) can have on human behavior.

Such porn-shaming isn’t all that different from the guilt conservatives attach to sex, even though conditioning men to feel bad about their sexual behaviors only leads to the kind of secretive, damaging behaviors evidenced in the Duggar story. What’s worse: when sexuality is labeled a “disease” like addiction, guys no longer have to own their sexuality — or their actions. It’s unnecessary to explain why they cheated because it’s beyond their control. And so, the “addict” stigma is preferable because it’s one they can check into rehab and recover from. Being considered an “adulterer,” on the other hand, is harder to shake.

Complete Article HERE!

Bondage Aficionados Are Better Adjusted Than Most

New research from the Netherlands finds that the psychological profile of people who enjoy certain non-mainstream sex games is surprisingly positive.

By

handcuffs

Is everyone you know unhappy or neurotic? Perhaps it’s time to find a new crowd—a group of open-minded individuals who are happier and better adjusted than most.

That is to say, people whose sexual preferences lean toward bondage and sadomasochism.

bondageAccording to new research from the Netherlands, the psychological profile of people who participate in these types of erotic games “is characterized by a set of balanced, autonomous, and beneficial personality characteristics.” Compared to those who engage in more mainstream sexual behavior, such aficionados report “a higher level of subjective well-being.”

“We conclude that (these activities) may be thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes,” psychologist Andreas Wismeijer of Nyenrode Business University writes in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

“Overall, a picture emerges of the psychological characteristics of the average BDSM practitioner that, compared with non-BDSM practitioners, is quite favorable.”

Wismeijer notes that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, both public opinion and the psychological establishment tend to equate BDSM activities (bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, or sadism-masochism) with some form of psychological damage. “BDSM is to some degree still pathologized in the upcoming fifth edition of the DSM,” he notes.

Along with statistician Marcel van Assen, he conducted a study at Tilburg University to determine whether there is truth behind this belief.<

Wismeijer created a detailed survey designed to reveal respondents’ personality traits and attachment style: how secure they feel when bonding with others and how they deal with their insecurities. In addition, the respondents rated their subjective level of well-being over the previous two weeks.

The participants were 902 people who “responded to a call posted on the largest BDSM Web forum in the Netherlands,” and another 434 contacted through a popular Dutch women’s magazine. The control group was 70 percent female; the group of people interested in BDSM was roughly half men and half women. (Those in the latter group were also asked if they preferred playing a dominant or submissive role, or regularly switched.)

The results will certainly produce intense feelings, although whether they are painful or pleasurable largely depends on the person.bondge_arms

“Our findings suggests that BDSM participants as a group are, compared with non-BDSM participants, less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, yet less agreeable,” the researchers write. They add that females in the BDSM group had “more confidence in their relationships” and “a lower need for approval” than those in the mainstream sample.

“Finally, the subjective well-being of BDSM participants was higher than that of the control group. Together, these findings suggest that BDSM practitioners are characterized by greater psychological and interpersonal strength and autonomy.”

Why might this be? Wismeijer notes that “BDSM play requires the explicit consent of the players regarding the type of actions to be performed, their duration and intensity, and therefore involves careful scrutiny and communication of one’s own sexual desires and needs.”

In other words, it requires thought, awareness, and communication—all of which lead to happier relationships, both in and outside of the bedroom.

Like sadomasochistic sex itself, these results shouldn’t be taken too far; the differences between the groups were, for the most part, not huge. And there were some differences among members of the BDSM community: “Scores were generally more favorable for those with a dominant than a submissive role.”

Nevertheless, “Overall, a picture emerges of the psychological characteristics of the average BDSM practitioner that, compared with non-BDSM practitioners, is quite favorable,” Wismeijer concludes.

This may be hard for some to accept. But think of it this way: Old prejudices are not something you want to be handcuffed to.

Complete Article HERE!

What Happens To Men Who Stay Abstinent Until Marriage?

by Sarah Diefendorf

Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara arrive at a White House State Dinner in April.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend, the singer Ciara, recently announced plans to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

It was a vow that came as a surprise to many. After all, sexual purity is a commitment that is historically expected of, associated with – even demanded of – women. However, sexual abstinence is not something assumed of men, especially men like Russell Wilson.

Wilson, an accomplished, attractive athlete, embodies contemporary ideals of masculinity, which include style, wealth and, yes, sexual prowess.

So how does a man like Russell Wilson navigate a commitment to abstinence while upholding ideals of masculinity? Wilson’s status as an athlete and heartthrob is likely giving him what sociologist CJ Pascoe calls “jock insurance.” In other words, due to his celebrity status, he can make traditionally nonmasculine choices without having his masculinity questioned.

But what does it mean for a man who isn’t in the limelight, who makes a similar type of commitment to abstinence? And what does it mean for the women they date, and might eventually marry?

I’ve been researching men who pledge sexual abstinence since 2008, work that comes out of a larger scholarly interest in masculinities, religion and sex education.

While men make this commitment with the good intentions for a fulfilling marriage and sex life, my research indicates that the beliefs about sexuality and gender that come hand in hand with these pledges of abstinence do not necessarily make for an easy transition to a married sexual life.

Who’s Pledging “Purity?”

Comedian Joy Behar recently joked that abstinence is what you do after you’ve been married for a long time. Here, Behar makes two assumptions. One is that sexual activity declines both with age and the time spent in a relationship. This is true.

The second is that abstinence is not something you do before marriage. For the most part, this is true as well: by age 21, 85% of men and 81% of women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse.

purity ringIf we compare these numbers to the average age of first marriage in the United States – 27 for women, and 29 for men – we get the picture: most people are having sex before marriage.

Still, some in the United States are making “virginity pledges,” and commit to abstinence until marriage. Most of the data that exist on this practice show that those who make the pledges will do so in high school, often by either signing a pledge card or donning a purity ring.

Research on this population tells us a few things: that those who pledge are more likely to be young women, and that – regardless of gender – an abstinence pledge delays the onset of sexual activity by only 18 months. Furthermore, taking a virginity pledge will often encourage other types of sexual behavior.

Virgins In Guyland

But little is known about men who pledge and navigate this commitment to abstinence.

I was curious about how men maintain pledges in light of these statistics, and also balance them with expectations about masculinity. So in 2008, I began researching a support group of 15 men at an Evangelical church in the Southwest. All members were white, in their early to mid-20’s, single or casually dating – and supporting each other in their decisions to remain abstinent until marriage.

The group, called The River, met once a week, where, sitting on couches, eating pizza or talking about video games, they’d eventually gravitate toward the topic that brought them all together in the first place: sex.

On the surface, it would seem impossible for these men to participate in what sociologist Michael Kimmel calls “Guyland” – a developmental and social stage driven by a “guy code” that demands, among other things, sexual conquest and detached intimacy.

Rather, the men of The River approach sex as something sacred, a gift from God meant to be enjoyed in the confines of the marriage bed. At the same time, these men struggle with what they describe as the “beastly elements” – or temptations – of sexuality. And it is precisely because of these so-called beastly elements that these men find each other in the same space every week.

The men of The River grappled with pornography use, masturbation, lust and same-sex desire, all of which can potentially derail these men from their pledge.

It raises an interesting dilemma: to these men, sex is both sacred and beastly. Yet the way they navigate this seeming contradiction actually allows them to exert their masculinity in line with the demands of Guyland.

Group members had an elaborate network of accountability partners to help them resist temptations. For example, one had an accountability partner who viewed his weekly online browsing history to make sure he wasn’t looking at pornography. Another accountability partner texted him each night to make sure that he and his girlfriend were “behaving.”

While these behaviors may seem unusual, they work in ways that allow men to actually assert their masculinity. Through what sociologist Amy Wilkins calls “collective performances of temptation,” these men are able to discuss just how difficult it is to refrain from the beastly urges; in this way, they reinforce the norm that they are highly sexual men, even in the absence of sexual activity.

The River, as a support group, works largely in the same way. These men are able to confirm their sexual desires in a homosocial space – similar to Kimmel’s research in Guyland – from which Kimmel notes that the “actual experience of sex pales in comparison to the experience of talking about sex.”

A ‘Sacred Gift’ – With Mixed Returns

The men of The River believed that the time and work required to maintain these pledges would pay off in the form of a happy and healthy marriage.

Ciara, in discussing her commitment to abstinence with Russell Wilson, similarly added that she believes such a promise is important for creating a foundation of love and friendship. She stated that, “if we have that [base] that strong, we can conquer anything with our love.”

So what happened once after the men of The River got married? In 2011, I followed up with them.

All but one had gotten married. But while the transition to married life brought promises of enjoying their “sacred gift from God,” this gift was fraught.

Respondents reported that they still struggled with the beastly elements of sexuality. They also had the added concern of extramarital affairs. Furthermore – and perhaps most importantly – men no longer had the support to work through these temptations.

There were two reasons behind this development.

First, respondents had been told, since they were young, that women were nonsexual. At the same time, these men had also been taught that their wives would be available for their pleasure.

It’s a double standard that’s in line with longstanding cultural ideals of the relationship between femininity and purity. But it’s a contradiction that leaves men unwilling to open up to the very women they’re having sex with.

These married men and women were not talking to each other about sex. Rather than freely discussing sex or temptation with their wives (as they had done with their accountability partners), the men simply tried to suppress temptation by imagining the devastation any sexual deviations might cause their wives.

after marriage

After marriage, the men felt left to their own devices.

Second, these men could no longer reach out to their support networks due to their own ideals of masculinity. They had been promised a sacred gift: a sexually active, happy marriage. Yet many weren’t fully satisfied, as evidenced by the continued tension between the sacred and beastly. However, to open up about these continued struggles would be to admit failure as masculine, Christian man.

In the end, the research indicates that a pledge of sexual abstinence works to uphold an ideal of masculinity that disadvantages both men and women.

After 25 years of being told that sex is something dangerous that needs to be controlled, the transition to married (and sexual) life is difficult, at best, while leaving men without the support they need. Women, meanwhile, are often left out of the conversation entirely.

So when we urge abstinence in place of healthy conversations about sex and sexuality, we may be undermining the relationships that are the driving goal of these commitments in the first place.

Complete Article HERE!

A Story With A Happy Ending

Name: Nathan
Gender: Male
Age: 37
Location: Dallas
I’m a married guy with a great wife and 3 beautiful kids. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a masseuse I found on Craigslist. I don’t have a lot of experience with massage and thought I would be safe going to a guy instead of a woman. The guy was really nice and did a good massage, but somehow I popped wood near the end of the massage. I was really embarrassed, but he was like totally ok with that. Then he asked if I wanted a happy ending. I didn’t even know what that was till he started to massage my ass and blow me. I have to admit it was totally amazing. I never felt anything like it before in my life. My wife sometimes will give me oral sex, but nothing like this. I blew a load like nothing I ever did before. I though my insides were coming out of my cock. I was amazed and scared and confused and I could hardly sit up. Then the guy said I had a real healthy prostate. I said, WHAT? And he said he was massaging my prostate while he was sucking me off. I can’t stop thinking about this. I want more but I feel really guilty and I’m afraid this is going to make me gay.

What a great story, Nathan. But we need to clear up a few things. A masseuse is a female practitioner of massage. A masseur is a male practitioner. This is a common enough mistake, but I thought you should know the proper usage for further reference. Because you can see how a little unintended slip like this will make all the difference in the world. If you say a masseuse gave you a blowjob that’s totally different from getting a blowjob from a masseur, don’t ‘cha know.massage_butt.jpg

I’m gonna also guess you never had a prostate massage before this encounter with the masseur. A prostate massage coupled with your first blowjob from a guy…hell, you are lucky your insides didn’t shoot out your dick along with your spooge. I’m joking of course, but it does stand to reason that you had such an intense and explosive orgasm and ejaculation. That’s precisely what a prostate massage does, honey.

Now, let’s see if we can figure out why you can’t stop thinking about this. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to analyze that either. This was a peak sexual experience for you. I mean, beside the mind-blowing release, the means by which you had this orgasm — the guy’s finger in your ass and the guy’s mouth on your dick were both unexpected and apparently unprecedented. So I figure you had very little time to cognitively respond to the stimuli before things came to their explosive climax, so to speak, as it were. And you did say you were already relaxed and aroused by the massage, right?

I’d be willing to bet that if you had some emotional distance from the experience you would realize your body was simply responding to the stimulus it was receiving. Your dick and your prostate weren’t able to distinguish the gender of the person diddlin’ your ass and suckin’ your dick. And since your brain was occupied with all these new sensations you had little time, if any to process and possibly protest. And maybe you wouldn’t have protested even if you could. Maybe you wanted to take this little walk on the wild side. Trust me, lots of guys do.

come as you areNow that the event has passed, you have plenty of time to process. And process you are…to within an inch of its life…if ya ask me. This experience looms so large for you because it is forbidden fruit, so to speak. It upsets the apple cart of your cozy and predictable heterosexuality. I mean it’s one thing to pop wood on a massage table. It’s something totally different to blow a wad while a guy is givin’ you head.

And now that you have all this time on your hands to keep pouring over and over this in you head, the event has taken on a proportion it probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Let me put your mind to rest, one blowjob from a guy…even an earth-shatterin, prostate-massagin’ blowjob, like the kind you got from this fabulous masseur…won’t make you gay. Nor does wanting to repeat the experience make you gay. All this experience really tells us is that you like a good blowjob and you now know where to get a really fantastic one when next you want one.

Think about it this way. Say you went to a Chinese restaurant and, to your great surprise, had the best dim sum ever. You were so impressed with the food that you’ve been eager to return to this particular eatery for another go at those tasty vittles. Does this desire for yummy dim sum make you Chinese? I don’t think so…that is unless you were Chinese before you went to the restaurant.

Finally, the guilt you’re experiencing, where might that be coming from? There are so many sources one would be hard-pressed to come up with an exhaustive list. But let’s look at the top contenders.hands & butt

  • You’re married with a family. You had a sexual experience…unplanned as it might have been…with someone other than your wife. BINGO!
  • Our culture’s buttoned-down sex and gender stereotypes — who can do what to whom. BINGO!
  • The dictates of our sex-negative society about what is proper and what is not in terms of sexual exploration and experimentation. BINGO!
  • The shame of possibly being labeled a fag. BINGO!
  • The fear of your own desires and where they might lead you. BINGO!
  • The allure of the forbidden and the explosive charge the illicit. BINGO.

The experience you had with that masseur, Nathan, is so highly charged, both culturally and sexually, that it will take some while for you to find your balance once again. In the interim, my I suggest that you postpone any judgments about yourself or what the incident might imply about you until you’ve have some emotional distance and the time to calmly process all of this. In the final analysis, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that this is a relatively harmless sexual outlet. The masseur is providing you a service…I mean beyond the obvious. He is providing you a safe, secure non-judgmental environment to exercise and expand your sexual repertoire. Think of it like a place you go to learn about the wonders of sexual dim sum.

Good luck

Sexual Frustration Reigns

Hello Dr. Dick

First time question to you. I’m sure you’ve probably heard this one a million times, but I could use some advice 🙂

I married my best friend. Sex has never been frequent or great. Most of the time he finishes in less than five minutes of penetration and I rarely if ever get to orgasm. The first and last time I think I did have an orgasm I think was the day we conceived our little girl.

He’s a great guy in all other aspects, but when it comes to the bedroom, it doesn’t happen. I’ve tried seducing him (which he responds to eagerly, finishes and then rolls over and goes to sleep), tried asking if we could try different things (different has ended up being one of two positions – missionary and woman on top – he does not like and will not do anything else). He also does not want to and won’t do stimulation with his hands or anything else for that matter. He also does not like or want toys in the bedroom, for him or me.

Any ideas on how I can convert him into a wife pleaser? I’m at my wits end. Last time I seduced him to get some “cock” in me was two months ago and needless to say I didn’t get any satisfaction. For the first time though I took care of things myself and at least I slept without really resenting him 🙂

I’ve been trying to not care, but I’ve found out I’m a very passionate woman who only gets more passionate with time… and with those needs not being met, I’m wondering if it’s the end? Can people be happy without sex? I haven’t found a way to yet but if you know of something, please let me know.

Anyway, if you have a chance to respond to my ramblings it would be appreciated… even if you have some insight into his actions/non-actions it would be greatly appreciated.

Coral

You’re right; I have heard this a million times.

sexual frustrationI’m gonna spare you the niceties and get right t the point, Coral. Your husband is clearly not up to the task of being your lover. His behaviors and his disinterest in finding a solution to the problem you have together tells me that he is a selfish lout. And how in the world can he be your best friend. Best friends don’t behave like this.

Let me put it to you another way. If you were writing to me to tell me that your husband hordes all the food in the house to himself. That he has you feed him till he is satisfied, but offers you only crumbs to sustain you. And that he won’t even negotiate you getting the food you need to survive and sustain yourself. What do you think I would say about that?

I suppose you see where I’m going with that, right? Listen, you oughtn’t be beggin’ for shit that is rightfully yours.

I have one real simple premise that I live by. And that is, each of us has a right to a happy, healthy, integrated sex life. If there is something that is getting in the way of achieving that, whatever it might be, it is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

As far as relationships go, I am of the mind that we ought, first and foremost, work to honor our commitments of fidelity and mutual support. Are there ways that these two moral principles — a right to a healthy sex life and one’s relationship commitments — can coexist when one’s relationship excludes the possibility of happy sexual expression? Yes, I believe there are. And many couples achieve this balance, because they have an overriding love and concern for one another.

Now the facts — not all loving relationship have a sexual component. Many, for one reason or another, simply don’t. But if a partner is unwilling to provide sexual satisfaction to his/her partner and he won’t even begin negotiate an amicable solution or other accommodations then, I believe, this a form of sexual abuse.factors-of-sexual-dissatisfaction

If what you report about your husband’s distaste for anything sexually adventurous is accurate, then you have a very hard row to hoe. (BTW,are mutually enjoyed sex toys in the bedroom all that adventurous these days?) Trying to negotiate a satisfactory solution to a problem is all the more difficult when your partner is opposed to even discussing the issue. Here’s what I suggest. Have a frank talk with the bonehead. Tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he has first right of refusal to you and your long-suffering naughty bits. If he isn’t interested in keeping you sexually satisfied, that means the door is open for you to get your groove on elsewhere. If he balks at that, stand your ground. Insist that he has just the two options of taking it or leaving it.

If this means the end of this relationship, as I suspect it might. Then have the spine to make a clean break of it. Because, if you don’t, then you are complicit in the abuse you are suffering.

Good luck

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