When I talk to guys on gay dating/hookup apps, I tell them that I’m as sexually proficient as you’d expect a twenty-three-year-old gay man to be. I tell them that I’ve had multiple partners, entertain conversations about sexual preferences and preferred positions, and discuss the logistics of sexual encounters I know will never occur. I do all of this despite the fact that I’m one of the most sexually inexperienced people on the planet. Despite the fact that I’ve only ever been with one person, and that it’s been three years since I’ve last had sex (and by sex I mean “good ole penetration”). Instead of being honest about what I’ve done, I lie and pretend to be someone else for the sake of conversation.

So why do I do it? Why do I lie to guys and lead them on when I have no intention of following through? Why do I pretend to be sexually active when I’m anything but? Part of me thinks I entertain these conversations because they let me imagine the type of person I could be. On gay dating and hookup apps, I can pretend to be sexually confident and promiscuous. I can play the part of the gay guy people assume I am or expect me to be. I can pretend to be the person I wish I was sometimes. I can attract the attention of good looking guys and get easy gratification in the forms of compliments and sexual advances.

As someone who has struggled with low self-esteem and negative body image, these conversations provide me with the opportunity to boost my self-worth by showing me that I am now desirable enough for men to want to sleep with me. They serve as a reminder that I could easily have sex if I wanted to, and that my abstinence is by choice and not a consequence of being undesirable.

The other part of me, however, believes that I am being dishonest because I know honesty would result in alienation. In my personal experience, I’ve found that sexual inexperience is something that is either fetishized or viewed negatively. Those with little sexual experience are either perceived to be sweet and virginal, or prudish, undesirable, and un-fuckable.  As a gay man, it often feels like the gay community views sex as some form of exercise or as a hobby, something you do regularly for your own enjoyment, and given the overabundance of dating/hook up apps, it’s viewed as incredibly accessible. And so if you’re not having sex, there’s something wrong with you. Often, I feel like there’s something wrong with me for not wanting it—or being able to follow through with it even when I do.

There are times when I want to have sex but don’t because of my own sexual anxiety. Despite all the progress I’ve made toward self-acceptance, I still feel very uncomfortable in my own skin. I am uncomfortable with having people view my body in a sexual way. My anxiety also makes me fearful that I won’t be able to keep up or last, and it makes me worry that my sexual partner will make me feel bad about my body or performance.My anxiety makes me apprehensive to give myself over to someone else in a physical sense because I’m fearful they’ll reject or exploit me in the process.

I’ve gone so long without having sex that it’ll be like my first time all over again when I next do it. And sometimes I worry that people will think I’m too old to be as inexperienced as I am, and refuse to understand why I’ve been abstinent for so long. Because the reality is that sexual ability and proficiency is an important form of social currency in the gay world, and that’s something I don’t have much of.

I’ve been open with my sexuality for 5 years, and I’m still grappling to separate my self-worth as a gay man from my sexual identity. I’m trying to convince myself that my physical worth is in no way more important than my personal worth. And I think by lying about who I am and what I’ve done, I’m only shaming myself for not being sexual. In my mind, I am lying because I think something is wrong with the truth, which isn’t the case. People deserve to be valued for more than just their body. So maybe it’s best if I take the honest approach and just suck it up when guys pass on me and my inexperience. I shouldn’t have to lie about who I am to get someone to take a chance on me. And maybe, the fact that I’ve gone so long without sex means that it’s not something I’m currently interested in or ready for—and that’s okay too.

Because at the end of the day, I’m a skinny white boy with a cute butt, great sense of humor, and a whole lot to offer besides sex. And that should be enough for me or any guy.