Actor David Choe’s Resurfaced Sexual Assault Comments Prompt ABMP Response 

In response to the recently resurfaced clip from actor David Choe’s DVDASA podcast in which he details sexually assaulting a massage therapist, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) has sent a statement to both A24 and Netflix denouncing their decision to hire the “Beef” actor based on his history of inappropriateness and violence toward women, particularly professional massage therapists.  

The podcast clip from 2014, in which Choe recounts forcefully committing sexual acts on a non-consenting massage therapist, has resurfaced due to the actor’s role in the new Netflix series “Beef.” Choe has since released a statement claiming the sexual assault to be fabricated and part of his online/celebrity character. Choe’s comments highlight and perpetuate the dangerous perception that massage is related to, or a precursor to, sexual acts. This perception has negatively impacted our profession and the safety of our members, and ABMP does not condone this behavior or thinking in any form.  

It’s important to set guidelines so the massage experience is met with trust and respect that deters the thought of misguided sexual misconduct and unwanted sexual advances. RespectMassage.com is our commitment to educate and empower massage therapists, clients, and anyone discussing our profession on what a respectful massage experience should look and feel like.  

Massage therapists and bodyworkers can share their feedback directly at https://help.netflix.com

The full text of ABMP’s letter to Netflix and A24 is below. 

To Netflix/A24 and “Beef” Creator, Lee Sung Jin: 

We are writing to express our concerns regarding the actor David Choe. As the national association representing a profession of more than 320,000 US-based massage therapists, more than 80,000 of whom are our members, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism, ethics, and safety in our profession. 

As you likely know, a clip from David Choe’s DVDASA podcast recently resurfaced of him describing sexually assaulting a professional massage therapist, as he claims to be “a successful rapist.” This kind of behavior is not only incredibly harmful to our profession, but causes serious harm to the victims, our members, and professional massage therapists in general. 

Perhaps Choe may have been fabricating a story for the sake of comedy or his celebrity persona, but there is no room for such gross representations of sexual assault in a massage therapy session or elsewhere. For years, these jokes and perceptions have led to real violence and sexual assault in our profession.  

Professional massage therapists undergo rigorous education, testing, licensing, and certification in order to help and care for others. Portrayals of massage therapy like Choe’s endanger our members in the very space to which they’ve dedicated their careers. Such portrayals can have serious real-world implications for massage therapists and bodyworkers. When media normalizes, sensationalizes, or ignores inappropriate touch or behavior in a massage therapy session, it can create a perception that such behavior is acceptable or even expected. This can put massage therapists at risk of assault or harassment from clients who feel emboldened by these media representations. 

We ask for Netflix and A24 to apologize, acknowledge the mistakes made, and take appropriate action for this insensitive behavior. 

We are closely monitoring the situation and will take further action as necessary to ensure that our members are protected, and our profession is represented appropriately. 

Sincerely, 

Les Sweeney 

President, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals 

Category: 

Comments

What a thoughtful and poignant letter. The thoughts are truthful, fair, and hopefully received in the spirit they were given; to protect the vulnerable. I hope they don't try to explain away Choe's actions by claiming that no harm can be done with "mere words"  in the context of a joke. Plenty of racist jokes have caused harm and sparked more than just controversy, Choe's words along with his popularity could do the same. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter if Choe doesn't intend for people to respond a certain way to the thoughts his "character" expresses through a popular broadcast medium.  We all have seen all too often that this world is full of people who can be emboldened by broadcast comments that could incite people to reckless endangerment of the public, and even members of the private sector.  So, regardless of how we feel, we have to be more careful with the choice of our words we share on any scale. Hopefully Netflix will put themselves in the position of massage practitioners, most of which are female, and sadly, belong to a socially vulnerable community when it comes to abuses in the workplace and at home. Today, names and words can do just as much damage as sticks and stones. 

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