Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.
Beef, Netflix’s newest series, has been described as one of the best shows of the year by fans and critics alike, and for good reason. The comedy drama starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun is anchored by a juicy and bloody beef—a rivalry kickstarted by a chance road rage encounter—between Amy and Danny, and unforgettable performances by the two leads.
A little over a week after its release, Beef continued to trend on Twitter but for a different reason: Artist and cast member David Choe’s statements in a podcast where he describes a sexual encounter with a masseuse.
Who Does David Choe Play in Beef?
David Choe is a Korean American artist known for his surrealist paintings and graffiti. His works are featured in the title cards of Beef, where he also plays Isaac, the Cho brothers’ cousin with a criminal past.
Though Beef makes it challenging to pick a side between the two protagonists constantly trying to one-up the other, there’s no uncertainty as to the lack of morality of Isaac’s character. He’s an ex-convict whose illegal activity caused the Cho family to lose their business; who continues to influence Danny down a dark path after being incarcerated; and who would rather die in a shootout with the police instead of taking responsibility for his transgressions. Whether you’re in Amy’s camp or Danny’s, Isaac is a clear villain in the twisted narrative Beef wants to tell.
The actor does a very convincing job of playing a morally bankrupt individual. However, some Twitter users are not upset with the character he plays but by Choe himself and his casting. It’s recently come to light that in a 2014 episode of DVDASA, a now defunct podcast he co-hosted with adult film star Asa Akira, Choe bragged about a sexual encounter with a masseuse in which he exhibited what he himself described as ‘rapey behavior’.
What Did David Choe Actually Say in 2014?
Before Beef came out, television fans may have only heard of David Choe as the artist who created the graffiti in The Mandalorian. However, he’s been embroiled in a rape controversy he stirred himself—and later backtracked on—for nearly a decade.
User @aurabogado took to Twitter to share a clip from DVDASA, which has since been taken down by the site. It was of Choe describing a massage he had from a woman he called Rose, and how he started to masturbate in front of her.
The entirety of the podcast has been deleted and Choe’s camp requested Twitter to withhold the clips for copyright reasons. Fortunately, an article that came out in 2014 quoted the original episode.
Choe said, “So I go back to the chill method of you never ask first, you just do it, get in trouble and then pay the price later.”
He asked if she could ignore him and continue with the massage. Choe added that he reached for the woman’s butt but she rejected his advances. However, Choe continued to escalate the encounter and reached a point where he asked the woman to touch his penis—to which she initially said no.
The artist continued to coax her into responding to his sexual advances, and said, “She’s definitely not into it but she’s not stopping it either.” And then, finally he says, “I take the back of her head and I push it down on my dick and she doesn’t do it. And I say, ‘Open your mouth. Open your mouth,’ and she does it and I start facef***ing her.”
When his co-host Akira described it as an alleged rape, he said he merely ‘encouraged’ the encounter. He admitted that what he did was ‘rapey behavior’ but wouldn’t call himself a rapist. The Beef actor rationalized, “With the rape stuff, I mean, I would have been in a lot of trouble right now if I put her hand on my d**k and she’s like, ‘F**king stop. I’m gonna go call security.’ That would have been a much different story. But the thrill of possibly going to jail, that’s what achieved the erection quest.”
When the episode received more attention a month after it aired and rape allegations were thrown at Choe, he quickly recanted the confession he informally made on his own podcast. He said it wasn’t factual and that it didn’t reflect his reality. In fact, he called it ‘bad storytelling in the style of douche’. An apologetic Choe also went on Instagram three years later and said he told the story for ‘shock value’ and denied having any history of sexual assault.
Twitter vs David Choe: Who Wins This Beef?
There may not be any remaining audio or video clips to prove it but, as far as Twitter is concerned, David Choe did say those things in his podcast in 2014. He described blurring the lines between consensual and non-consensual sex and, under California law, committed rape. However, the Beef artist and actor later said the event didn’t take place. He played it off as an extension of his art that’s meant to shock audiences, but Twitter users aren’t convinced.
David Choe may have lost this beef but, in the grander scheme of things, he’s winning the war. All he really gave up was a couple of years off. He may or may not be a rapist but that is ultimately for a judge and jury to decide. He is, at the very least, a celebrity who told a story of sexually assaulting a person for the sake of irreverence and normalized rape culture by joking about it. (Rape and sexual abuse were, it seems, never taken seriously on Choe’s and Akira’s podcast. Another clip that was shared on Twitter showed the hosts joking about statutory rape, with Choe convincing Akira that a 13-year old ‘could have easily passed for 15’, which is, by the way, still a criminal offense.) But when the DVDASA episode came out, the worst the Beef actor suffered was his mural getting defaced. He was hosting a documentary series for Vice at the time and all they said was they would look into it. He continued to showcase his work and even had a highly exclusive exhibit called The Choe Show, and appeared on Netflix’s Ugly Delicious as a guest star. And now, David Choe and his art are crucial to Beef and, arguably, its success.
To quote a point @Nina_Metz made on Twitter, “…it is notable that telling this story years ago didn’t cut him off from the kind of connections that enabled him to be part of the show.”