Library patrons at libraries in the five Grosse Pointes have to do a walk of shame of sorts when they want to read “Playboy” or “Penthouse” and ask a librarian to retrieve the racy magazines from behind the counter.
Now, they’ll have to do the same with a free entertainment weekly, the Metro Times, after some Grosse Pointe residents complained about advertisements in the alternative publication that they said promote human trafficking.
The Grosse Pointe Library Board’s 7-0 vote to place the tabloid behind the counter at library facilities in the five Grosse Pointes is a compromise reached after some residents asked for an all-out ban, the Detroit Free Press reports. Such a ban likely would prompt a First Amendment freedom-of-speech lawsuit, Grosse Pointe Park City Council members said in rejecting the ban.
The Metro Times will now be available only to those citizens who are 18 and older.
Among those complaining about the content was Andrea LaVigne of Grosse Pointe Park, who accused the Metro Times of “aiding and abetting” sex trafficking with ads for in-call, out-call services.
Another resident, said her 8-year-old daughter, picked up on the theme and said, “Mom, they’re selling women in here,” according to the Free Press story.
Jane White, director of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force in East Lansing, told the Free Press that “chances are good” there are elements of human trafficking in some of the advertisements in the Ferndale-based publication, which claims a free distribution of 60,000 copies a week.
“It’s a difficult decision; you are trying to balance the benefits of journalism … but you can’t ignore the graphic nature of the ads in the back,” Library Board President Brian Graves told WWJ-TV.
The ads in question also promote topless bars, marijuana hookups and the syndicated “Savage Love” sex advice column, the television station said.
- Do you agree or disagree with the Grosse Pointe Library Board to place the Metro Times behind the counter at local libraries?
Metro Times Editor-in-Chief Valerie Vande Panne told the Free Press concerns that advertisers are engaging in human trafficking should be reported to police. She also said the content of the Ferndale-based alt-weekly is no more titillating than that found in books on the library shelves, including “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” the 1928 D.H. Lawrence novel that was banned in Europe because of its explicit sex scenes.
Vande Panne also defended some of the risqué photographs in the advertisements, saying that “many women would argue that it’s a feminist right to have their photograph taken in that matter.”
She also said the publication has no control over what “consenting adults” do after they respond to an ad.
Metro Times readers responded on the alternative’s Facebook page when asked if the Metro Times was so offensive it should be placed behind library counters.
“No,” reader Chris Carpenter posted. “I'm a Grosse Pointer and I support freedom of speech and press –our most important freedom.”
“They are just talking about putting it behind the counter at the library, not taking it out of the box on the street,” David Gifford posted. “Just because kids can see the same and worse content of the back pages on the internet doesn't mean the library doesn't have the right to put the MT out of reach of young children.”
“I would guess it is less of the Metro Times main content and more do with the large quantity of ads for head shops, escorts, and sex shops in the back half of it,” agreed Colum Slevin. “I don't find any of that personally offensive and think if that is the case, I hope the library has a big back room to handle all the potentially off-putting materials one might be aghast by in the place.”
Other libraries haven’t followed suit. Larry Neal, director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, said in an email to the Free Press that the Metro Times is available in plain view. “Life and libraries are about choices and the freedom to read,” Neal said.
The Baldwin Library in Birmingham also declined to restrict access to the publication.