I appreciate a good joke. Who doesn't? I've laughed at jokes about race, about religion, about war, about torture, and yes, even about rape. Jokes about sensitive topics usually elicit a laugh-gag reflex from me. I start to laugh, then a catch myself and my laughter soon turns to feined outrage. But I laugh. And I can appreciate a comedian who can make me laugh. We've all probably at one point or another laughed at jokes that were deemed offensive to some. For me to deny otherwise would make me a hypocrite.
These past few weeks, we've seen fighters getting into trouble for saying or tweeting some disturbing comments about the topic of rape. Forrest Griffin did it, Rashad Evans did it, and now Miguel Torres did it, but unlike the former two, Torres got fired over his tweets. Let's get this straight: I personally do not believe any subject is out of bounds. I can laugh at anything. When you make a topic out of bounds, that sets it up to be untouchable in some way, that you cannot criticize something, and for me, criticism is a healthy part of what makes society move forward. Without criticism, beliefs turn to dogma and dogma can create sheep. It is important for humanity to continually question its beliefs, and jokes in a way play their part in such criticism.
But what makes a successful joke is context. Context is key. What the fighters fail to realize here is that you cannot just deliver a punchline. There's a context you need to develop and create - the set up before the big punchline. And unfortunately for these fighters, Twitter is not the appropriate forum to set up such jokes. Fighters do not have 2 hours during an HBO special to set up their jokes. They have 140 characters on the limited public format that is Twitter. So if you're going to joke, or say something in general, it has to be thought out. There is a reason why you don't see comedians simply deliver punchlines all day.
Griffin failed to set up his joke. Not only did he fail to set the context, he responded poorly to those criticizing him. Dana White finally had to come out and set the story straight, but the question is: why didn't Griffin just set it straight himself? Why did we have to hear it from Dana, whose word is dubious at best to begin with? Rashad's comment was different, since it was in the context of hyping the fight. For me, it was just another unfunny Rashad joke. Was it appropriate even in that context? No, and that's why he got roasted for it. As for Torres, he just should have known better. By taking a joke out of context from a TV show, he can't have reasonably expected people to have seen that show and the joke, especially when he made no mention of the TV show. I've seen the show he refrenced, and I am a fan of its tasteless humour, but even I don't recall that particular line. If he did expect people to know, that's his stupid fault. And really, that's what it comes down to: we cannot read minds. You cannot assume people will just "get it."
Whether you believe it was fair of the UFC to punish Torres and not the other two is besides the point. And of course Torres wasn't making some grand commentary on society at large: He was being stupid. The crux of the matter is that fighters are using a public forum to make jokes, and it is their responsibility to set the context before they make their jokes. When there is no context, all bets are off, and if you're going to joke about subjects like rape, then you'd better be prepared to take what's coming to you. Bottom line: Torres got fired and it is entirely his boneheaded fault.