The #MeToo movement continues on this afternoon, as yet another high-profile figure in the world of arts and entertainment has been accused of sexual misconduct. Journalist Ben Ryan revealed in an interview with BuzzFeed today that Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner offered him a writing contract in exchange for sex in 2005.
Ryan recalled that being contacted by Wenner and offered the opportunity to pitch some freelance stories “felt like his big break,” describing the invitation to his father as “the beginning of the end of waiting for something to happen professionally.” Ryan walked out of Wenner’s office after their first meeting with a writing assignment for Men’s Journal, and the Rolling Stone head later invited Ryan to his Upper West Side home. Ryan was aware at that point that Wenner had been out as gay for quite some time, but felt confident that he could manage.
The publisher greeted his guest, fixed him a drink [...] 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.’”
From there, Ryan described how Wenner’s demeanor changed:
At the suggestion that anyone else might know about their encounter, Ryan said, “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,” Ryan told BuzzFeed. “All I would have to do is this one thing. But that’s not me. I would never do that.”
Ryan also provided BuzzFeed with a hand-written journal entry he wrote on the following day:
Thursday, August 11, 2005. Last night Jann Wenner asked me to come to his townhouse for a drink at 10:30 p.m. I knew this would happen sooner or later, I just didn’t think he’d take such a direct approach. It was the most pure form of sexual harassment: he pawed and groped and I insisted no but he persisted promising me a “25 article contract” in the most disingenuous voice. “Preferential treatment.” I was forced to kiss him. His mouth was dry and he was a serpent-like kisser, lashing with his tongue. After 90 minutes I left dignity relatively intact.
Wenner, it seems, remembers that evening differently. He said in a brief statement to BuzzFeed, “I met [Ryan] 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.” In a separate statement to Variety, Wenner offered a more emphatic denial, saying, “I have never and would never make an offer of this kind.”
Ryan’s Men’s Journal assignment was the only piece he would write for the magazine, and he calls his encounter with Wenner a “turning point” in his career as a freelance writer. “I’m not saying he killed my dreams, but it was a discouraging part of the process,” he said.
Explaining why he felt compelled to come forward, Ryan said, “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.”