The Summer Of Scam Continues Into Spring With This Fake Sexologist
Looks like it’s time to rename the “summer of scam” as the “era of scam.” Dr. Damien Jacob Markiewicz Sendler, a prominent sexologist who’s been featured everywhere from Forbes to Dan Savage’s Savage Love podcast, is not a sexologist after all, according to an investigation published by Gizmodo. Reporter Jennings Brown found that despite his prevalence in the media, the majority of Sendler’s claims about his education, research, and medical background appear to be fabricated.
According to Gizmodo, Sendler never attended Harvard Medical School, despite saying he graduated with both a PhD and an MD; he’s not a member of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, despite claiming he is; he isn’t licensed to practice as a psychologist, psychoanalyst, or mental health counselor in New York, despite saying he does so; and the foundation where he claims to be the chief of sexology appears to be entirely made up. After Brown told Sendler about what he'd discovered, Sendler told Gizmodo that he actually got his MD from the Medical University of Warsaw, but Brown was not able to verify that.
Sendler made a name for himself by presenting studies about topics that are “practically tailor-made for outlets that cover taboo sex news,” writes Gizmodo. VICE interviewed him about his study on bestiality; Playboy quoted from his paper on necrophilia; MEL Magazine covered his study comparing the "traumatic rectal injuries" in humans who practiced anal fisting — or, as Sendler put it, “butt-fisting” — to those who "had anal sex with animals." He also presented himself as an expert on autoerotic asphyxiation to Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast, and on women who fall in love with serial killers to Forbes. His coverage extended outside sex, too; Sendler told Gizmodo that he currently has a paper under review about teenagers attempting to live-stream suicide on Facebook.
In a Psychology Today article about his involvement with the Gizmodo report, Ley examines how Sendler was able to trick so many people. “Our media, in a time of clickbait journalism, is desperately hungry for sensational, controversial soundbites,” Ley writes. “Sendler weaponized this, telling Jennings: ‘I ask myself usually: Is this the weirdest thing I have done in terms of scientific inquiry?’... Sadly, it appears that our academic press, with peer-reviewed journals and editorial boards, fared no better.” He offers a list of ways to fact-check self-presented experts’ claims, writing, “there needs to be a lot more on a sexpert than just their website.”
The reporters who were duped by Sendler appear to agree; Salon notes that many have either added updates to their articles, or removed the pieces entirely. “This was Savage Love-bait,” Dan Savage told Gizmodo of his decision to interview Sendler about autoerotic asphyxiation on his podcast. “Clearly, we’re going to have to add a layer of vetting that we haven’t had in the past.”