A former employee of Rolling Stone has accused the magazine’s founder, Jann Wenner, of sexual misconduct.
Jonathan Wells said he was inspired to come forward after reading the allegations made against Wenner by journalist Ben Ryan. Ryan says Wenner made a pass at him in 2005 and offered him a 25-article contract in exchange for sexual favors.
Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Wells recounted a similar experience with Wenner. In 1983, they met through mutual friends and began spending time together. It was during a party at Wenner’s New York City apartment in February when Wenner allegedly made a pass at Wells. The two had spent the evening drinking and using cocaine, and eventually Wenner suggested they invite a prositute over. Once she was finished, Wenner allegedly made unwanted advances toward Wells.
“I was lying back and he put himself on top of me,” Wells told Buzzfeed. “He was kissing me, but you know, normal stuff, kissing my chest. I remember him putting his penis in my mouth. I remember him sucking me, going down on me. I remember his hair on my stomach.” Wells said he felt powerless and left as soon as Wenner fell asleep.
Thinking he might be gay, Wells had consensual sex with Wenner on two occasions in the weeks following the initial incident. “Then I realized, ‘what are you doing?’ — I woke up,” Wells said. “I was never attracted to a man in my life.”
During this time, Wenner offered Wells a job as editor at Rolling Stone Press, the book publishing division of the magazine. Wells said he never interviewed for the job. But after Wells began turning down Wenner’s overtures, he says his job was terminated. Wenner and Rolling Stone then threatened Wells with a lawsuit after he sold a book idea to a competing publisher. In turn, Wells threatened to go public with his sexual history with Wenner and the two sides ended up settling.
Wells told Buzzfeed that he had always considered the incident an assault, but found himself trying to normalize it and bury his emotions. Over the years, he told several acquaintances about the incident, but finally felt compelled to go public after seeing other victims of assault share their stories.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Wenner said he believed his relationship with Wells “was totally mutual and consensual — absolutely, and without question. I am saddened to hear this is his memory of that evening, because it is different than mine.”
Earlier this month, Penske Media purchased a controlling stake in Rolling Stone for $100 million. Wenner, 71, is to remain the magazine’s editorial director.