German metal rockers Scorpions are in the middle of another controversy. It is over what may be considered child pornography — the cover art of the album “Virgin Killer.” Cover art controversies are a recurrent theme in the band’s nearly four-decade history. But the current controversy isn’t about the cover of their latest offering or of an upcoming release. The current controversy is over “Virgin Killer” is one that provoked controversy when it was first released in 1976 and continues to do so.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has flagged the image of “Virgin Killer,” which is causing all sorts of problems for internet service providers whose filters are picking up the image. According to the Guardian, contributors to Wikipedia, where the image is available and has long been the center of controversial debate over inclusion, and 1200 other websites accessed through several British Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are having operating problems, according to Wikinews.
The original cover depicts a nude prepubescent girl with a cracked glass effect that obscures her genital area. The girl, said to be the daughter or niece of the product designer for RCA Records, Steffan Bohlle, is also posed provocatively. Both Rudolf Schenker and Uli Jon Roth (current Scorpions lead guitarist and former, respectively) recall that the cover was the record company’s idea. Roth says he cringes when he sees the cover now, but, at the time of the album’s release, was immature and did not see the implications. The song, “Virgin Killer,” according to Roth, is not sexual, but a harangue against society’s destruction of innocence.
But nothing quite stirs the ire in the general populace like allusions to or actual manifestations of child pornography. Although what constitutes legal child pornography and what each individual may label child pornography might differ (usually as to definition and age), that it is reprehensible is unquestioned. And when artists use questionable lyrics or images, such as has been the case with the Scorpions, then comes the controversy.
Gawker ran a story on the Wikipedia debate over the “Virgin Killer” cover back in May but found no American ISP’s being blocked or having trouble.
The Internet Watch Foundation defends its actions. It released the statement:
“A Wikipedia web page, was reported through the IWF’s online reporting mechanism in December 2008. As with all child sexual abuse reports received by our Hotline analysts, the image was assessed according to the UK Sentencing Guidelines Council (page 109). The content was considered to be a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18, but hosted outside the UK. The IWF does not issue takedown notices to ISPs or hosting companies outside the UK, but we did advise one of our partner Hotlines abroad and our law enforcement partner agency of our assessment. The specific URL (individual webpage) was then added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.”
Regardless of the legal definition of child pornography or one’s personal definition, the fact remains that the IWF’s actions against the “potentially illegal indecent image” will generate traffic to that which they are attempting to ban, in effect causing more exposure to that which they would limit.
Various band members may not be too proud of the album cover these days, but interest in the band cannot be a bad thing for them. The Scorpions have not released a studio album since 2004’s “Unbreakable.” Renewed interest in the “Virgin Killer” cover, for whatever reason, will drive the curious to find out more about the band.
Scorpions are most remembered for their hit songs, “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Winds of Change.”