Some may know of artist and actor David Choe from Netflix’s new dark comedy Beef (2023), released earlier this month, and others may remember him for becoming a multimillionaire after accepting stock in lieu of monetary payments from Facebook for a commissioned mural in their Palo Alto headquarters in 2005. Both of those achievements are currently in the background as a segment of a 2014 podcast has resurfaced in which Choe describes sexually violating a masseuse at a massage parlor.
In the episode of the DVDASA podcast, which he used to co-host with adult film star Asa Akira, Choe recounts forcing a masseuse named “Rose” to perform oral sex on him after he began masturbating during the massage. Between laughs, Akira called him out immediately and said that he was “a rapist” after Choe stated that it was “the thrill of possibly going to jail” that aroused him, to which he responded, “Yeah, a successful rapist.”
Days after the segment went live, Choe wrote a statement defending himself on the podcast’s webpage on April 18, 2014 in which he alleges that the story he told was totally fake. “I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist,” Choe wrote. Choe went on to say that the podcast is “not a representation of [his] reality” and called it “art that sometimes offends people,” commenting that “all rapists should be raped and murdered.” In a 2021 profile in the New York Times, Choe again addressed the podcast, stating, “I never raped anyone.”
Last week, investigative reporter Aura Bogado brought attention to the podcast segment on social media following Beef’s widespread success. Choe has since communicated with Twitter to have the clip removed for copyright reasons, catalyzing a renewed Streisand Effect. Fans of Beef and other productions by the show’s executive producers and co-stars Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, who were friends with Choe and invited him onto the cast, are demanding a response. Neither Wong nor Yeun has publicly commented on the matter.
The 2014 DVDASA podcast segment is not the only instance in which Choe vividly described scenes of rape and sexual assault. A 2009 feature on the San Francisco-based arts and culture magazine Juxtapoz included text from Choe’s blog posts during his journey to China for a solo exhibition where he described a trip to a mall and being in an elevator with Chinese women in mini-skirts that he wanted to flirt with. “I had so much jizz on my brain, I mentally skull fucked and raped every woman in sight, I didn’t (sic) know what to do,” Choe wrote. (The text is no longer on Juxtapoz’s website, but Hyperallergic was able to access it via the WayBack Machine.) In 2010, Choe starred in a VICE Media online series called How to Hitchhike Across America: Thumbs Up, sections of which are currently available to watch on YouTube. “I only almost got raped twice, so hopefully that won’t happen,” Choe said within the first minute of the first season in reference to his previous hitchhiking days. “But I was a lot skinnier and sexier then. You know how a lot of sexual abuse victims, they put on weight to make themselves feel unattractive and unsexy, so hopefully they’ll leave us alone this time.” Hyperallergic has reached out to VICE Media and Juxtapoz for comment.
The current controversy surrounding the Netflix series is not the first time Choe’s statements are invoked as grounds for cutting ties with the artist. In 2017, Choe was commissioned by real estate company Goldman Properties for an outdoor mural on the wall between Houston Street and Bowery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Many artists and activists clued into Choe’s DVDASA story were horrified that he was commissioned and the mural was vandalized and tagged over with the word “RAPIST,” after which it was whitewashed. Curator and activist Jasmine Wahi organized a “No Means No” protest at the site of the mural after it was painted over, inviting protestors to place a red handprint on the fresh slate “to memorialize those who might not necessarily have had a chance to speak about their victimhood or their survivorhood.”
At the time, Choe took to Instagram to provide a statement that attributed his comments to his mental illness. “Non-consensual sex is rape and it is never funny or appropriate to joke about,” Choe wrote in his post caption on June 16, 2017. “I was a sick person at the height of my mental illness, and have spent the last 3 years in mental health facilities healing myself and dedicating my life to helping and healing others through love and action.”
As of today, Choe has not issued a public statement in response to renewed controversy over his comments. Neither Choe, Netflix, nor the producers of Beef have responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.