Down with false modesty! Let's examine the naked truth of the Velvet Revolution. In laying bare the facts, perhaps we can explain why the end of communism proved to be so unsexy. One of the remarkable aspects of the events of November 1989 in the future Czech Republic, and also in Slovakia, was the virtual or complete absence of any sexual dimension. There were none of the sexual expressions that usually accompany revolutions and the collapse of regimes: no orgies, no exhibitionistic women, and no men desperately attempting to lay hands on them in public. No doubt, the chilly temperatures of the Central European autumn did much to negate any excess of libido in what proved to be a surprisingly straitlaced insurrection, but that is not the whole story. The truth is that the issue of sexual freedom was simply postponed, or at least set aside until the dust had settled. So the question is: what became of the sexual liberation which could reasonably be expected after a prolonged period of pious oppression?

This image of unwavering propriety does not square with the fact that most participants in the events of the revolution were students, who are usually enthusiastic proponents of sexual freedom. Whereas the campaign for greater sexual liberty played a key role in in the 1968 student riots in the United States and Western Europe, no such demands were voiced by Czech and Slovak students: there was no petition that concerned any indicator of sexual freedom, from access to pornography to contraception, not to mention guaranteed orgasms for everyone. And certainly there was no question of mixed showers in university hostels.

The hidden meaning of "Velvet Revolution"

The events that took place on Prague's National Avenue, on 17 November 1989, were dominated by a sense of high seriousness and responsibility that prevailed among the student activists. As such,they were accompanied by a kind of voluntary asceticism of mind and body, which enveloped them in a veil of prudery, only occasionally enlivened by the pulsing of excited organs... and we are only speaking of hearts here. The eyes of the young men were shining, though not with the flame of sexual desire, but rather with the gleam of historical purpose, which takes precedence over any intimate or personal affinity. Šimon Pánek and Martin Mejstřík, two of the main student leaders, looked more like puritanical monks than revolutionary playboys. As for their feminine counterparts, Monika Pajerová and Jana Hybášková were certainly charming, but they had no more sex-appeal than Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People — who was of course bare-chested, but not in any explicit kind of way!

But that is not to say that it was an "asexual revolution." Certainly not! Even the name "Velvet Revolution" has a hidden sexual meaning, though this may have been unintentional. In fact, the neologism, which was almost certainly coined by Václav Havel, is clearly an unconscious allusion to sadomasochistic literature — especially the "velvet" part, which directly refers to the novel Venus in Furs, by Austrian writer Leopold Sacher-Masoch, who gave his name to masochism. Sacher-Masoch is also an acknowledged influence on Lou Reed, the founder of the group The Velvet Underground, who claims to represent the '89 revolution, and who has now been adopted as its official sponsor. Masochism, or the quest for pleasure through submissive behaviour and pain, was also a major trigger for the events of 17 November 1989. We can consider the exclamation "we have only our bare hands," which was directly followed by an attack with truncheons, to be an invitation to sexual initiation. Of course, the victims attempted to defend themselves, but on an unconscious level, they wanted to be beaten, because they knew that if their attackers were not overcome by the desire to use force, their suffering would be more than worthwhile.

Václav Havel as Adonis

The days that followed were characterized by a period of arousal, which usually precedes a sexual act, where desire and pleasure will be increased tenfold if the propitious moment is sufficiently delayed. This state was neatly encapsulated by the slogan chanted by the massed crowd — "Truth and love will triumph over lies and hatred" — which clearly announces impending coitus. It was just a matter of waiting patiently for the right time.

The author of this slogan was none other than Václav Havel himself, who took on the role of a sex idol, even though he may have appeared as an anti-hero. He had devoted considerable time to preparing himself for this role, which it is true, many people found surprising. For the most part, he was an unfamiliar face in the Czech Republic. Of course, he had the air of a literary dandy with his mustache, and those blond highlights, which were nicely complimented by his tormented expression. But he was not of the athletic pin-up type that generally appeals to the masses. At the time, that was something of an advantage, because when you languish in a state of sexual yearning, what you need to resolve it is a wholly new aesthetic experience that has yet to be tested. So it was that when Václav Havel at last appeared, the great surge of revolutionary new love had found its most perfect and fitting expression.