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The Sexual Assault Controversy Around ‘Beef’ Star David Choe, Explained

It all stems from a 2014 podcast episode.

Beef may be one of Netflix’s buzziest new releases at the moment, but it’s drawing controversy after resurfaced footage emerged of one of its stars, David Choe, talking about allegedly assaulting a massage therapist.

Choe, who is better known for his art and podcast work, plays Isaac, a recently released convict who is the loud-mouthed cousin of Steven Yuen’s Danny.

The show has been beloved by critics and audiences alike, earning a rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes upon its release.

However, investigative journalist Aura Bogado shared footage from Choe’s now-defunct podcast DVDASA, in which he describes sexually assaulting a massage therapist called Rose.

It was controversial after its release in 2014, with Choe claiming in a statement that the story wasn’t true and he “hates rapists”. But its existence has led many to wonder why Choe was cast in Beef in the first place.

Warning: this post contains graphic descriptions of alleged sexual assault.

What did David Choe say on his podcast?

According to videos of the 2014 podcast episode being shared online, Choe talks about becoming aroused during a massage. “I take her hand and I put it on my dick,” he says, adding that he asked if she could “help me out a little bit”. He says he asks if she “likes it”, saying that she replies, “It’s alright”.

“She’s not like, ‘Yeah I LOVE it’, she’s like, ‘It’s okay,” Choe says.

He says that she begins to masturbate him, but “it’s horrible”.

“She’s not doing it. She’s in denial. So I go, Can I help you? So I put my hand over her hand and I put my other hand and I go — so now I’m holding her hand around my dick, and I start jerking my dick off,” he says.

He adds: “She’s definitely not into it, but she’s not stopping it either.”

“So then I say spit on it, and she won’t spit on it, and I was like kiss it, and she’s like, no there’s oil. This is the difference between asking and — so I say kiss it a little, and she goes no, ‘All the massage oil’s on it’. I take the back of her head and I push it down on my dick. And she doesn’t do it. I go open your mouth, open your mouth. And she does it, and then I start face f–king her.”

At the time, Choe’s comments were condemned by activists and organisations.

“We hope that, as Choe claims, he was indeed simply storytelling and that an actual rape did not occur. However, this is still a story about a woman who is sexually assaulted,” a joint statement from Advancing Justice — LA, Center for the Pacific Asian Family, and South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency read.

“Choe’s story reflects the harsh reality that men and women alike continue to believe and perpetuate the dangerous myth that coerced sexual activity is not considered assault or rape. By legal definition, you are committing an act of sexual assault when you do not receive consent. Based on Choe’s telling, the masseuse’s repeated protests, in addition to his physical coercion, indicate that she was not consenting to the acts he requested.”

What has David Choe said since?

After the podcast episode aired in 2014, Choe responded to the controversy by claiming the story wasn’t true and he wasn’t a rapist.

“I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist. It sucks. Especially because I am not one. I am not a rapist. I hate rapists,” he said in a statement, which was posted to the now-defunct podcast website and reported on multiple outlets at the time.

“We create stories and tell tales … It’s my version of reality, it’s art that sometimes offends people. I’m sorry if anyone believed that the stories were fact. They were not!”

The controversy came up again in 2017, after a mural he painted was vandalised, including with the word “rapist”. Choe took to Instagram to again deny the story was true.

“In a 2014 episode of [DVDASA] I relayed a story simply for shock value that made it seem as if I had sexually violated a woman. Though I said those words, I did not commit those actions. It did not happen. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I’ve brought to anyone through my past words. Non-consensual sex is rape and it is never funny or appropriate to joke about.”

What have Netflix and A24 said about the incident?

Neither Netflix nor production company A24 have yet to make a statement on the David Choe incident. Stars Ali Wong and Steven Yuen have yet to say anything, either.

However, Aura Bogado says Choe is working with Twitter to have her tweets sharing the podcast episode taken down. (At the time of publishing, her original tweet is not visible, with a note from Twitter saying it has “been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder”.)

“David Choe wrote to Twitter to get the video I posted of him talking about the woman he says he raped taken down on copyright grounds,” Bogado posted on Twitter, sharing screenshots from the Twitter report.

“He claims his *nonprofit* owns the copyright to the video of him talking about the alleged rape.”

We’ll update this story as new statements arise.

To access support around sexual assault, please contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are in distress, please call Lifelie on 13 11 14.

This story was originally published on ELLE Australia.

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