[Strong, strong trigger warning for rape]
In the March 10 episode of his podcast, graffiti artist David Choe — he who has gained a degree of fame for murals in the Facebook offices and a portrait of President Obama, among other works — recounted in lurid and self-satisfied detail his activities of the night before, in which he raped his masseuse at a massage parlor. (I only found out about it this weekend via Gawker.)
Describing her as “half black, half white — she’s a magic person” with curly hair and large breasts, he talks about encounters in the past in which he’d tried to touch her and she’d pushed him away. He mentions her disgust at rich men coming into the massage parlor and propositioning her. He mentions her concerns about a man in her neighborhood who breaks into women’s houses and masturbates onto them while they sleep. And he describes how all of this gives him a massive erection. And he describes how he forces her to take care of it for him, in the tone of a naughty little scamp recounting his randy late-night antics.
The following is a clinical but specific description of the assault he committed; if this will cause trouble for you, please save yourself the pain and skip down to the next paragraph (which is still disgusting, but not like this): He begins masturbating in front of her. He asks her to masturbate him, and when she refuses, he takes her hand, places it on his dick, and forces her to do it. He asks her to go down on him, and when she refuses, he holds her by the back of the head and forces himself into her mouth until he’s done. But it isn’t rape, because “she said yes with her eyes.”
“She has given me no signs that she’s into me or that this is appropriate behavior.”
“It’s definitely not what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s definitely crossing the line. … It’s disgusting.”
“She didn’t want to do it.”
“The thrill of possibly going to jail, you know — that’s what achieved the erection quest.”
“She said yes with her eyes, in the dark room. I saw it in the candlelight.”
“On paper, she showed me that ‘I’m not interested in this way at all.'”
“I did not fucking rape her, okay? Jesus Christ.”
Because she didn’t call security when he began assaulting her, or bite his dick off. Because afterwards, he claims, she confessed to having a crush on him, and his “instincts” that it had been okay to force himself on her were vindicated. It was rapey, he admits, but it didn’t make him a rapist. Despite co-host Asa Akira’s repeated insistence that no, in fact, he was a rapist on account of raping a woman, he continued professing his non-rapistness until finally cutting the show short “because [he didn’t] want to go to jail.” Because the worst thing you can be called is a rapist. Committing rape? Confessing to it on the air? Naughty behavior. But calling someone a rapist? How dare you, sir?!
But hold on. Wait. We don’t get to call him names or be mad at him. Because he was TOTALLY KIDDING, Y’ALL, JESUS.
On Friday, shortly after the story came out on Gawker and xojane, Choe hurried to his blog to tell us that duh, he’s not a rapist, he’s an artist and a storyteller and art is controversial and besides it didn’t even really happen, he was just messing with people. If he’s guilty of anything, he says, it’s bad storytelling. He signs off with, “In a world full of horrible people, thank god for us.”
Bad storytelling. Like the problem was inadequate development of secondary characters. Pacing. Poor world-building. Personally, I’m going to call it an editing issue. Because, see, if he edited out the part where he talked about raping a woman, the story wouldn’t have been nearly as rapey.
“I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist,” he says in his post (possibly having forgotten the time he described himself being one on his podcast). “Especially since I am not one,” he continues (presumably continuing to not remember). His story, he insists, was just him messing around with his co-hosts and telling an entertaining story that was “not a representation of [his] reality. … It’s my version of reality, it’s art that sometimes offends people.”
So now we’re looking at two options: Option A, he raped a woman, recounted the hilarious story in gratuitous detail on his podcast, denied any guilt, and lied about it six weeks later. Option B, he made up a story about raping a woman, weaving in disgusting and gratuitous details from the depths of his own mind, told it with relish, and couldn’t believe we silly, reactive Philistines took it seriously. Because his podcasts challenge and provoke, y’all.
Either way, sexual assault of a woman was a punchline, a topic for entertainment, a story told for a good chuckle. Because she’s just a woman, right? Just a service professional. Just a “magic” person of color. Who didn’t struggle. And the man who laughingly talked about raping her is neither (option A) in jail or (option B) unemployed. Call me a humorless feminist; call me a cultureless, closed-minded vulgarian; but for some strange reason I’m not laughing.