Thank Heaven for Little Girls: The Case of Sculptor Pavel Opocensky

The act of male artists inviting young girls into their studios with the intent of doing “studies” of their nude bodies is far from a shocking idea in contemporary Western society. However, in the past, renowned artists such as Edgar Degas and Egon Schiele among others suffered the consequences of gossip and rumors that can accompany a man’s intimate association with girls.

Pavel Opocensky, a locally renowned sculptor and jewelry designer within the Czech Republic, has also undergone public and state persecution, but previously for the inadvertent killing of a young skinhead in defense of an elderly man under attack.

Opocensky is a man known more for his questioning the limits of ethics and morality than his actual artworks. But, his commissions by the city of Prague to create public sculpture monuments put him in the position of role model for up-and-coming sculptors as well as the general public.

His name hit the headlines for the second time recently-but this time not for a crime of selfless bravery. Instead Opocensky was accused of child molestation. In a society where innocence, naivety, and youth are profusely offered as foremost representations of sexuality and sexual stimulation via the media and entertainment industries, the question becomes how should we deal with individuals who succumb to the temptation?

It has been said that Sigmund Freud shaped the mind of the Twentieth Century. Considering that Freud was from Moravia and the impact of his work on Western societies, it seems phenomenal that Psychology is still taboo within the Czech Republic.

Here, persons who feel inclined to turn to medical experts or analysts in order to comprehend and solve personal dilemmas are regarded as abnormal and perverse (this is perhaps also the reason why New Age healers are so very abundant and popular in this country).

Two gypsy girls (aged eight and twelve years-old) went to the police authorities in August 2002 to accuse Pavel Opocensky of child molestation. They allege he lured them into his flat through bribery, under the pretenses of having them undress in front of him. Once inside however, they claim they were instead pressured to do a striptease and allow him to masturbate in front of them (the legal age for consensual sex in the Czech Republic is fifteen).

One of Opocensky’s primary pleas in court was that he did not realize the girls were underage. This is not surprising especially in a society that supplies girls aged four to eleven with exactly the same style clothing as girls aged twelve and onward, as well as cosmetics that are increasingly geared to the ‘young market’. Freud’s views on infant and child erotic desire and sexuality seem to have entrenched moral society against a wave of inevitable battles.

In the fine arts, the topic of representing young and adolescent girls has become both profusely prevalent and chic. Artists such as Inez van Lamsweerde, Laura London, Judy Fox, Nicky Hoberman, Sarah Jones, have all turned to exploring this topic in their works.

Little girls dressed up like adults, wearing makeup, and posing puckered for the camera is not only hip in the art world, but can be seen everywhere: on magazine racks, billboards, T.V., and in mainstream films.

A “little girl/whore syndrome” seems to have emerged-especially considering that modeling agencies now prefer girls between the ages of 8 to 15. What is it in essence that models do but sell their bodies? Also, the extent of the recent child pornography ring and murders in Belgium and the numerous on-line child porno sites again substantiates that the increasing interest in young girls.

In the Czech Republic, a flood of recent mobile phone card ads and billboards featured a little girl (approximately age nine to twelve) dressed up in lingerie and makeup, posed in a sexual position, and overlaid with an explicitly sexual text. These types of advertisements pass through Czech society unquestioned. Another recent film advertisement has four girls looking at the viewer with their index fingers pressed against their mouths in the act of hushing. The Czech translated title for the film reads, “Girls Want it too, but Carefully”.

Rather than scrutinizing the use of children as sex symbols, some artists have simply jumped on the media’s bandwagon. It appears it is time to acknowledge that equating girls with sex sells. The artists listed above, however, attempt to reflect on and investigate this mass infatuation and manipulation of little girls through their work.

Opocensky never hid the fact that he has desired young girls. He even went so far as to boast publicly about his illegal activities. The fact that the girls who accused Opocensky were from a minority group in the Czech Republic further escalates the complexities of the case (although all of his previous prey were white-skinned Slavic girls). Hardly anyone ever voiced an opinion on Opocensky’s wild tales. Most passed it off as one of the idiosyncrasies of being an artist; in other words, people excused him because he is not perceived as a “normal person”. Thus the scenario of the mad and misunderstood artist still takes precedence.

As soon as the case was made public several newspaper and magazine articles were published with Opocensky stating, “I am not a pervert”. They also contained intimate details of Opocensky’s many indecencies without any obvious reason other than sensationalism.

Whether Opocensky is classified as a pederast or a pervert, imprisonmenthas become the favored solution in a country that does not view psychiatry, psychology, or psychoanalysis (the three p’s) as a means of treatment, understanding, and enlightenment.

Freud’s views on the antagonism between civilization and instinctual life could still hold the key toward understanding and diminishing the tragic results of neuroses that linger through our societies. Opocensky, now aged 49, married to a 24 year-old and father to a son aged 5 is now serving a three-year prison sentence.