The Next Step Into the Commons: The Sex Commons Wiki

Chris's picture

A lot's gone down in the last year with Sex in the Public Square; I think that Elizabeth and I have accomplished even more than we originally expected to here so far with projects like the sex work forum, and the networking that we've done with people in the real world and all the discussion of news items. Looking at the site as a whole, I'm not only proud of what we've done, but outright amazed.

And there's still so much more that we can do.  Recently, we came up with an idea to take us even further: a sex-positive wiki. 

One of the things that made this seem like such a good idea to me was the surge of media coverage in the wake of the Spitzer scandal, and especially the Diane Sawyer 20/20 special, which repeatedly seemed to make a deliberate effort to snatch bullshit from the maw of truth.

We really do have an incredible collection of fiercely intelligent, independent people in what can loosely (VERY loosely) be called the sex-positive community. We have everything from dedicated activists working at clubs and agencies to scholars like Elizabeth, and I think that putting all those brains together to build a resource devoted to providing information about the intersections of sex and culture could produce a helluva powerfu and valuable site.

The question I usually get when pitching this idea at people is, "What about Wikipedia?" Wikipedia is a great resource. If the rest of the web was as useful as Wikipedia, I'd probably spend the other 10% of my life plugged into the internet as well.  The Sexology and Sexuality Project on Wikipedia, among others, deserves praise for their work. But Wikipedia itself isn't specifically focused on sexuality, and a focus can be invaluable in attaining depth of insight into a topic. Also, Wikipedia is, by definition, open to just about any damn fool with a computer and an attitude. Most of the truly obvious lunatics get combed out by the collective efforts of the saner majority, but in working on volatile subjects like sex work or pornography, there are often polarized factions trying to get their viewpoint into the article. The Talk section of the Wikipedia pornography article has a lot of long arguments over the nature and appropriateness of various approaches to the subject. In short, it takes an effort just to be able to get to the starting line for sex-poz people. One of the benfits of having our own wiki would be that we're already at a comfortable starting point, where we can begin with the assumption, for instance, that sex work can be a legitimate occupation.  Then from that point, we can move on to our our own internecine battles. We don't have to waste time explaining why prostitution and trafficking aren't necessarily the same thing.

Also, when the site goes up, it won't initially be as open as Wikipedia is. We want to start with people we know and trust until we build up a core of articles that will establish a philosophical and scholarly tone, along with a set of mutually accepted principles to guide creation of new articles.

We definitely know what a huge task we're setting for ourselves, here. In fact, it's huge, and we're not planning to do it all on our own. A wiki is by definition a collaborative effort, and we'd like to hear from other people on what they'd like to see in a wiki of this sort and any practical suggestions that people have from experience working on Wikipedia or other sites. We've already set up an installation of MediaWiki, and it's almost ready to go. In the meantime, feed us your thoughts on the idea, and feel free to bring us down to earth before we get all starry-eyed from contemplating our own brilliance and idealism.