SAN FRANCISCO — Jann Wenner, the founder of once high-flying rock world magazine Rolling Stone, has been accused of offering freelance work for sex to a male writer in 2005.
Ben Ryan, now 39, told BuzzFeed News Friday that he was sexually harassed during an encounter with Wenner at his Manhattan home. After fixing Ryan a drink, the publisher kissed him and promised a 25-article contract in exchange for sex.
Ryan says he left after 90 minutes, eventually doing one article for Wenner-owned Men's Journal. “I’m not saying he killed my dreams, but it was a discouraging part of the process," Ryan said.
Wenner issued a statement to the outlet in which he acknowledged that the encounter took place.
"He turned me down, which I respected," Wenner said, adding that no such writing-for-sex contract was extended. "I have never and would never make an offer of this kind."
Wenner is the latest in a growing list of high-profile figures to have been singled out for inappropriate behavior in the wake of women accusing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of a range of lewd acts and harassment over decades, including rape.
In recent days, female comedians told The New York Times that comedian Louis CK had a persistent habit of masturbating in front of women without their consent, while Kevin Spacey has faced a savage hit to his career since a number of men have come forward with stories of being sexually harassed by the actor.
Wenner, who has been out as gay for decades, cultivated a raucous, bisexual culture within the walls of his magazine empire, according to a new book by Joe Hagan called Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.
A passage in the book quotes a former employee who said Wenner "fancied himself as a sort of polymorphous-perverse William Randolph Hearst." "'He told me he had slept with everyone who had worked for him,'" said Glenn O’Brien, who joined Rolling Stone in 1973 and quit after what he said were Wenner’s unwanted advances.
Ryan told BuzzFeed News that he decided to reveal the secret that he's "held tightly for 12 years" because of the current climate, which has opened a floodgate of accusations against men in entertainment, politics and academia.
“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,” Ryan said.
After slowly shedding many of his magazines, Wenner decided recently to sell the controlling interest in his crown jewel.
Wenner started San Francisco-based Rolling Stone as a University of California-Berkeley student with the backing of San Francisco Chronicle music critic Ralph J. Gleason, eventually riding its success to both fortune and fame as the founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
A pivotal moment in the history of the storied publication, which launched the career of Hunter S. Thompson among others, came in 2014 when it published a story about a rape on the University of Virginia campus.
The story was poorly vetted and proved to be false, resulting in a $1.65 million settlement with the fraternity that had been the alleged site of the rape.
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