Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner has now been added to the ever-increasing list of men who have recently been accused of sexual harassment. Then-freelance writer Ben Ryan tells BuzzFeed News that when he got a call from Wenner in 2005, he thought it was his big break, telling his father, “the beginning of the end of waiting for something to happen professionally.” After a few meetings, Ryan says that Wenner invited him to his Upper West Side home, where he made some drinks for himself and his guest.
Then suddenly, said Ryan, his host pounced. “I had Jann Wenner’s tongue in my mouth,” Ryan said. “I went along for a second but then said something to the effect of ‘Oh please, I’m not that kind of girl.’”
Ryan then describes,
“It was like the entire temperature of the room changed in a flash.” Wenner “got very upset and was pseudo-threatening of how bad it could be if this got out.”
Ryan recalls feeling terrified. “All of a sudden I was the bad guy and I felt like I was in the hot seat and being grilled.”
He got up to leave. He was in the foyer, he said, when Wenner made him an offer: Stay, and I’ll give you a writing contract.
“I think there was that moment where it’s like time stood still, and you’re imagining how this could be the answer to all my struggles. All I would have to do is this one thing,” Ryan said. “But that’s not me. I would never do that.”
Ryan wound up with an assignment for Wenner-owned publication Men’s Health, but never saw the publisher in person again. He told his boyfriend and a few friends immediately about the (alleged) encounter, and described it in his journal, saying, “I was forced to kiss him. His mouth was dry and he was a serpent-like kisser, lashing with his tongue.”
Wenner sent BuzzFeed a response to Ryan’s accusations: “In a short statement to BuzzFeed News, Wenner acknowledged the encounter but described it differently: ‘I met him twelve years ago and did flirt with him. There was no quid pro quo. He refused my advances, but still went on to have his assignment from Men’s Journal published.’”
Even before this accusation, Wenner was not having a great 2017. As his flagship publication, Rolling Stone, turns 50, it’s also up for sale, and an HBO documentary on the magazine amounted to little more than a puff piece. And a recently published biography on Wenner, Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan, is less than flattering. Hagan’s volume points out at work, Wenner “was known for his jovial sexual harassment.” The magazine’s staff “was not immune from Wenner’s own adventuring”:
He fancied himself as a sort of polymorphous-perverse William Randolph Hearst,” said Glenn O’Brien, who joined Rolling Stone in 1973 and quit after what he said were Wenner’s unwanted advances. “He told me he had slept with everyone who had worked for him.”
Wenner and his wife Jane reportedly had an open relationship with both sexes, as mentioned in NPR’s Sticky Fingers review. He eventually left her for fashion designer Matt Nye in 1995, although the couple didn’t divorce officially until 2011.
Ryan says that he was inspired by other recent stories to come forward:
I feel we are in such a unique moment in our evolution as a society—a moment when people are genuinely ready to listen to stories such as this—that I must take a stand to help continue the public conversation about sexual harassment and assault in all its forms.