Steffan Böhle and Michael von Gimbut: Scorpions’ Virgin Killer

Scorpions – Virgin Killer: One of the most controversial album covers ever, this one was banned from all of the United States, so a new cover was designed for the US release, and in many other countries it could only be sold in black shrink wrap.  Pertaining to the album’s design, Wikipedia says:

The original cover art for the album depicted a nude ten-year-old girl named Jaqueline, with a shattered glass effect obscuring her genitalia. The image was designed by Steffan Böhle, who was then the product manager for RCA Records. Francis Buchholz was the bassist for the band and, in an interview conducted in early 2007, recollects that the model depicted on the cover was either the daughter or the niece of the cover designer. The photograph was taken by Michael von Gimbut.

And the band’s rhythm guitarist, Rudolf Schenker, who wrote the lyrics to the song, describes its meaning thusly:

Virgin Killer is none other than the demon of our time, the less compassionate side of the societies we live in today—brutally trampling upon the heart and soul of innocence.

The band and the cover’s creators have since come to regret the cover design, though personally I think they are pandering to the fearmongers of the present zeitgeist, which will not last forever. The now-grown girl herself made it clear fifteen years after the photo was taken that she had no problem with it. The image is powerful, no doubt, but the real question is, is it exploitative? Well, in order to answer that question we have to examine the motives of its creators. This cover, like all pop and rock album covers, is meant to grab your attention, and thus to sell records. It was not an image created independently for the sake of art, which would make the question easier for me to answer; in that case it would be a resounding NO! Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Nevertheless, album art is still art, and many of its creators care as much as any other artist about their work and its message. Can we say definitively that Steffan Böhle and Michael von Gimbut were simply out to shock? I don’t think so. It’s a fine line, but rock music has always been about shaking things up, pushing boundaries and subverting existing mores, so the image should be taken in that overall context as well as the symbolism in which it was intended.

And the cover was clearly never meant to titillate. This is not child pornography; in fact, I would argue that it is the opposite of child porn. Placing the girl against a dead black background emphasizes her innocence and vulnerability, and the cracked glass effect, aside from strategically obscuring her girly parts, adds an extra layer to the girl’s vulnerability and cleverly conveys the loss of her innocence.  We therefore feel sort of odd looking at this image.  We experience cognitive dissonance, which is precisely the point, I believe.

Moreover, the girl’s seeming compliance is an accurate depiction of child sexuality, which is likely what disturbs people the most about it. The girl’s easy and open pose stresses her willingness. Most people currently seem unable to accept the fact that kids—even prepubescent ones—are sexual and can not only be participatory but willing sexual partners. I know people who were molested and when asked directly about this, most of them have admitted that they enjoyed the sexual contact to some degree. This does not, of course, mean they weren’t victimized, but it demonstrates a valuable lesson to us: children are not asexual beings who experience de facto suffering and trauma when they have sexual experiences. This is what makes real sexual abuse so sinister, because kids can become confused by their body’s pleasurable response even when they are forced and completely unwilling, and kids in that situation often grow up with a love/hate relationship with their own bodies.

So, this cover is important for precisely that reason—it shows the reality of child abuse rather than the horror stories society accepts as a matter of course (and there’s no question that that side of it exists too.) All of that is conveyed in this simple but powerful image.

scorpions-virgin-killer-cover-1

Steffan Böhle; Michael von Gimbut – Scorpions – Virgin Killer (cover)

Photodesign: Steffan Böhle (Official Site)

Michael von Gimbut (Official Site)

Scorpions (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Scorpions (band)

Comments:

From Anonymphous on April 9, 2012

Someone should take a look at this jewel case. The pic would be much better off without these scissures.

“…cleverly conveys the loss of her innocence.”

Implying innocence would be somehow the opposite of sexual experience.

“children are not asexual beings”

Of course not. When I was a child, I partly was even more sexual curious and open minded towards it, than I am now.

“who experience de facto suffering and trauma when they have sexual experiences.”

I always have to chuckle when I hear people assuming this. I had my first sexual experiences when I was about 6 and it didn´t affect my life at all. It wasn´t even anything special to me. It´s almost as if people would say, that if a virgin would go to a physical examination with 18, he/she would get traumatized by it –– Just ridiculous.

From pipstarr72 on April 9, 2012

Someone should take a look at this jewel case. The pic would be much better off without these scissures.

The “scissures” I think you’re referring to (the glass cracks) are in fact part of the original image, and it would not look better without them. It would in that case be an uninspired and flagrantly distasteful image for a rock album cover. The cracks are there for a reason: not only to cover up her genitals but also to symbolically represent the loss of innocence, both physically (breaking of her hymen) and mentally (gaining sexual experience she did not have before.) Moreover, in the broader sense the image and the song it corresponds to represent a society that has become jaded, corrupt and careless such that it devours all that is sweet, beautiful and innocent.

I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with that symbolism, only that this was what was intended and it was well-conceived. I added to that the fact that the girl’s pose suggests the reality that children can be sexually open, even if that was not the conscious intention of the creators. Whether it was or it wasn’t, it compliments the idea behind the image perfectly. Here is a girl who has been sexually aware and active for awhile, perhaps because of abuse or perhaps because she has simply been immersed in a culture that allows it. I suppose it doesn’t really matter in terms of the symbolism, but I suggested that this image was far closer to the reality of sexual abuse than the stories that most people are familiar with (e.g. kidnapped children being raped and discarded like trash)—those types of things are rare. Often kids are fully participatory in their own abuse.

Of course not. When I was a child, I partly was even more sexual curious and open minded towards it, than I am now.

Why do you suppose you’ve become more close-minded and conservative about sex as an adult than you were as a child?

I always have to chuckle when I hear people assuming this. I had my first sexual experiences when I was about 6 and it didn´t affect my life at all. It wasn´t even anything special to me. It´s almost as if people would say, that if a virgin would go to a physical examination with 18 , he/she would get traumatized by it — Just ridiculous.

I have a question for you. I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but I would like you to think about it. You say your sexual experience did not affect you at all, and yet here you are, and clearly you arrived here because of your interest in this issue. So it seems to me that it affected you in some way, wouldn’t you agree? Again, I’m not passing judgment. Only you own your experiences, as I own mine, my friends own theirs, etc. I’m not here to tell you how to feel about that. If you liked it, then you liked it and that’s it. But can you say definitively that it affected you in no way, shape or form?

From Anonymphous on April 9, 2012

“Why do you suppose you’ve become more close-minded and conservative about sex as an adult than you were as a child?”

I don´t know… Like I said, it´s only partly, but I guess I was just more spontaneous as a child and didn´t really care about at all what others think about me. Not that I would care about this now, but as a child I cared about it even less.

“You say your sexual experience did not affect you at all, and yet here you are”

Yes, I knew this would come… I can´t prove that it didn´t affect me. It´s just how I feel about it. But there also is no indication that there would be any link between this and me being on a site like this.

I mean, I can´t speak for people who had sex with an adult as a child (although I for one think that this also isn´t always inherently wrong), but when people assume that sex in general would be bad for children, or that it would be wrong, it´s just getting ridiculous in my eyes. Just wanted to point this out.

From pipstarr72 on April 9, 2012

I don´t know… Like I said, it´s only partly, but I guess I was just more spontaneous as a child and didn´t really care about at all what others think about me. Not that I would care about this now, but as a child I cared about it even less.

Fair enough.

Yes, I knew this would come… I can´t prove that it didn´t affect me. It´s just how I feel about it. But there also is no indication that there would be any link between this and me being on a site like this.

Well, there may or may not be a connection to early sexual experiences and your being here, but statistically speaking, it seems likely. And again, I’m neither judging nor condemning it either way. I just thought you might benefit from the insight, but it seems you’ve already thought about it.

I mean, I can´t speak for people who had sex with an adult as a child (although I for one think that this also isn´t always inherently wrong), but when people assume that sex in general would be bad for children, or that it would be wrong, it´s just getting rediculous in my eyes. Just wanted to point this out.

Well, I agree with all of that; however, I think it’s a very bad idea for adults to be having sex with kids, if only because you can never be sure which way it’s going to go for the child, no matter how much care is taken by the adult. There are a lot of different factors involved, probably the most relevant one being—I think you would agree—how the society we live in poisons any such experiences for kids almost as a matter of course. That isn’t changing any time soon, so the best policy is simply not to go down that road at all. Any adult that was unable to resist in the current atmosphere should understand that they are doing the child a great disservice (at the very least), and if they care about the child at all they should do everything in their power to avoid that temptation. Cheers!

From Anonymphous on April 9, 2012

“Well, there may or may not be a connection to early sexual experiences and your being here, but statistically speaking, it seems likely.”

I disagree with this. Because it´s a matter of fact, that these “statistics” about pedophiles you are referring to, are all pretty much for the ass, since almost all research on pedophiles is based on convicted sex offenders—those who have already acted on their desires—most of whom are or have been in prison. Most studies are merely based on the 5 percent who get caught—a very unrepresentative group. In other words, most pedophilia research subjects are outliers. (Same goes for the abused/“abused” children too of course)

Apart from this, it´s also proven fact, that those pedophiles (or “situational offenders”) who were reviewed, very often tend to lie when it comes to early sexual experiences in their childhood, because it can result in a sort of an “excuse” for what they did, which allays their punishment.

“I think it´s a very bad idea for adults to be having sex with kids, if only because you can never be sure which way it´s going to go for the child”

I agree with this. But I´m also a person who isn´t quite sure, if it´s actually a good idea to put children into this world at all. There you also can never be sure about how this is going to go for the child.

From pipstarr72 on April 10, 2012

I disagree with this. Because it´s a matter of fact, that these “statistics” about pedophiles you are referring to, are all pretty much for the ass, since almost all research on pedophiles is based on convicted sex offenders—those who have already acted on their desires—most of whom are or have been in prison. Most studies are merely based on the 5 percent who get caught—a very unrepresentative group. In other words, most pedophilia research subjects are outliers. (Same goes for the abused/”abused” children too of course)

Well, I certainly agree there is a lot of misinformation, distortion and emotion-driven rather than fact-driven policies. It’s safe to say we are currently in the midst of a moral panic with regard to both child sexuality and pedophilia. I won’t dispute that.

Apart from this, it´s also proven fact, that those pedophiles (or “situational offenders”) who were reviewed, very often tend to lie when it comes to early sexual experiences in their childhood, because it can result in a sort of an “excuse” for what they did, which allays their punishment.

That’s quite probable. I have myself reviewed the data referring to situational offenders, primarily the writings of Dietz and Lanning. I think situational offenders probably do comprise most sexual offenders against children. This makes sense—statistically there must be far more non-preferential sexual opportunists than bona fide pedophiles (those who are sexually attracted to children.) According to Lanning, however, pedophiles—those who do offend, I mean—tend to have far more victims, so it may even out. I really don’t know. What I do know is that we need more and better studies on pedophilia, studies without the severe cultural biases currently present.

I agree with this. But I´m also a person who isn´t quite sure, if it´s actually a good idea to put children into this world at all. There you also can never be sure about how this is going to go for the child.

Well, people aren’t going to stop having kids. There are powerful biological and cultural imperatives at work there. What I notice is that it’s always the wrong people who seem to pump out babies left and right: right-wing religious fanatics and dysfunctional poor people primarily.

From Anonymphous on April 12, 2012

“That’s quite probable.”

It´s not probable, it´s a fact. And like I said, people who come up with stuff like minor-minor sex would be harmful, or something, they just have a screw loose, IMO.

“It’s safe to say we are currently in the midst of a moral panic with regard to both child sexuality and pedophilia.”

I´m still not quite sure if it´s a moral-panic or just a witch-hunt…

4 thoughts on “Steffan Böhle and Michael von Gimbut: Scorpions’ Virgin Killer

  1. I give no value to “cemented beliefs” developed outside science, it is then just common prejudice and superstition. Sexologists from Moll to Kinsey have documented children’s sexuality, in particular the latter showed that they can have orgasm at an early age. And sexual preference seems established after “adrenal puberty”, at age 10 (Herdt and McClintock). And at such ages they may well have sexual desires. The difference seems more of degree than a yes/no dichotomy.
    Ethnological research among “primitive” societies shows that unless repressed by adults, children will practice in their games everything that adults do. And when society allows girls to be sexual, they will lose their virginity well before puberty.
    Even in the US where child sexuality is repressed as never before in any society you can find kindergarten toddlers playing fellatio.

  2. I’ve looked at the image and it looks like her nipples had been airbrushed out (or however they did it in those day) and quite possibly her genitalia as well. I see that act as a reinforcement of her innocence. I do believe that children are asexual, at least until the day those hormones start to pop, the stage at which the model is. The cracked glass represents the loss of that asexuality.

    Before you crucify me, let me explain. Children ARE very sensual and love to be touched, massaged, mauled and wrestled with. They are very curious about sexuality and adventurous to explore it. They have not yet developed the social mores adults have and the sexual timidity to go with them. There are many sexual aspects to children but they are missing the prime factor. They don’t actually get horny. They will respond (erections etc.) but that is similar to alpha testing a computer subroutine.

    I’ll go into more details on my blog someday about my liberal attitudes toward child sexuality, but that has to wait till I have cemented my belief that children are asexual. We have to stop spreading the perversion of children as sexual beings for society to stop thinking of them as sexual beings. This is how we will protect children, not by labeling their nudity and curiosity as perverse but by seeing the innocence of it. I didn’t explain it very well. I may end up writing a book to explain it properly.

    • Well, I agree with your reply to an extent. I don’t think children possess a sexual drive anywhere near that of the average adult until puberty kicks in. However, to consider them asexual is, I think, to treat them as less than holistic beings. Children possess sex parts at birth and are capable of experiencing sexual pleasure, limited though it may be. That is well documented, and I know enough people who have reported their own experiences and have little or no reason to doubt them. This will vary from child to child, but I certainly find the notion of all children being asexual in the sense that you mean it highly suspect. I think this belief serves a convenient societal purpose. But the part of your post that I disagree with the most strenuously is this notion that there is some societal bias towards believing children to be sexual beings–if anything, it is precisely the opposite. Society goes too far in minimizing and undermining children’s experiences and feelings with regard to sex. That being said, I certainly do not believe that adults should exploit that sexuality (to whatever extent it exists) for their own pleasure. Children may have proto-sexual thoughts, feelings or responses, but that certainly does not mean they are ready for or capable of handling sex.

      • I love your term “proto-sexual” because that perfectly represents what I’m talking about. I agree with what you are saying but I don’t quite think you caught my main point. I’m separating sensual from sexual, though the two are very closely linked. I think it is very difficult to have sexual without, at least some, sensual, but sensual can definitely exclude sexual. I’m well aware of the childhood sexual experiences you mentioned but I feel they fall into the sensual and proto-sexual categories. Putting them into the true-sexual is, I believe, a result of cognitive distortions. It would take too long to describe, so please think about it. I too am 100% against adults using kids for their sexual gratification. My comment about liberal attitudes to child sexuality refers to playing doctor and other inappropriate sex games between kids (no grown-ups).

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