Written by Audrey Ernst
Illustrated by Elaine Yang
This article contains descriptions of domestic violence that some might find disturbing.
In June 2016, Geneva Ayala was faced with a difficult decision. How she would like to be sexually assaulted, barbecue fork or barbecue brush? She was given that choice by her boyfriend at the time, Jahseh Onfroy. That wasn’t the only assault; he also beat her while she was pregnant.
Onfroy, more commonly known by his stage name XXXTentacion, was awaiting trial for charges of domestic abuse brought forth by Ayala when he was shot and killed. Social media pages were flooded with posts mourning Jahseh Onfroy, most of them saying “RIP X. He deserved better.” and, “Pray for X, his music helped me get through a lot.”
It’s difficult for fans to live with the fact that he was an abuser, but also an artist. It’s not unknown that Onfroy was violent, but his fans are looking past it and selectively remembering what they want to remember. While it would be terrible and wrong to say that he deserved to die, we can’t forget that he was a violent abuser. Dying at a young age, while tragic, does not erase the terrible things that he has done. Even though he was young and still had time in his life to change, it doesn’t make what he did okay. And truthfully, he was probably going to continue acting violently and abusing women for the rest of his life, based on his past behavioral patterns.
XXXTentacion is not the only artist to have a history of domestic violence.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
These are lyrics to ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. Rolling Stone Magazine even dubbed it his “greatest musical gift to the world.” Lennon was one of the Beatles, a voice of his generation. Yet a person so dedicated to peace and love was also a domestic abuser. In a 1980 Playboy interview, he admitted to hitting women
“All that ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved’ was me,” he said. “I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women.”
‘Imagine’ shows the side of Lennon who we remember him as, compassionate and understanding. His actions shouldn’t be forgotten, but neither should the power of his music.
XXXTentacion and John Lennon are very different artists, and so were their crimes. Lennon preached peace, and XXXTentacion made music about darker subjects. Both artists’ music touched people. We feel an emotional connection to an artist, and relate to what they are going through. It’s difficult and heartbreaking when they don’t rise to the pedestals that we put them on. That’s when things get tricky. Fans feel like they have to make a choice: either accept their idol’s flaws, or deny them. However, there is another way. We can condemn their faults, but also celebrate their artistry.