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Home » The Vine

The Vine: April 26, 2013

Submitted by on April 26, 2013 – 11:42 AM35 Comments


Got an "Ask the Readers" question for you, although the topic is a bit off the traditional Tomato track. It concerns the intersection of diabetes and sex. 

Relevant background: I am a diabetic, and I wear an insulin pump, which looks like this. I've worn it for about three years (have been diabetic for twelve). Next, I will have been married for sixteen years come November, and Husband and I may be on the outs. Sex, or rather the recent lack thereof, is part of the problem.

At first, I thought the absence of nookie was a combination of garden-variety shit like communication problems in the marriage, we're getting older, he's not in the same shape he used to be, etc. Then, he lobs me this: apparently, the button I wear on my skin as part of the insulin pump system turns him off. Like, way, way off. To be clear: I don't wear the insulin pump when we have sex. I can be "unplugged" from the pump for up to three hours, so I take it off when I shower or swim, for example, but the button that the pump plugs into stays on my skin. I change its location every two or three days when I refill the insulin in the pump. The button goes anywhere on my torso, so, below the breasts, above the thighs. It's tiny. It's barely an inch across and slightly thicker than a quarter. Even in close-fitting underwear, you can’t see any distension.

Nonetheless, Husband says that if he's touching my stomach and comes across it, or if he's on top of me and feels it, his gut reaction is "EW." You can imagine how that made me feel. 

In the giant swarm of infinite questions surrounding the idea of divorce, I find myself sometimes thinking about if/when I might have sex with somebody else, and I wonder about possible reactions. My first thought was that anybody I wanted to have sex with would know, way before we got naked, that I wear an insulin pump and what that entails; and would be cool and smart and attracted to me enough that it wouldn’t even be an issue. But, see, my husband knows about it, is cool and smart — I wouldn’t have married him otherwise — and has at least been attracted to me, and he still had this very hurtful, very unsexy reaction.

I have no way of knowing how common that reaction is, and although it doesn't bear on the decision of whether or not to divorce, it's bugging the hell out of me. So, I want to ask the Nation:

Would you fuck someone who wears one of these?

Please don't misunderstand me, Sars. I'm not angling for leads on prospective sex partners. I wouldn't in a million years try to use Tomato Nation as a dating service. Frankly, I think I want to work things out with Husband. But I still really want to know people's answers to that question, and the Nation is a really great control group, whose responses I can rely on to be thoughtful and honest and therefore valuable.


The "Pumping" Double Entendre Is Just So Twee That I Can't Even

I can't swear that I wouldn't get the heebs from it figuratively — like, knowing that it's a passageway to inside your body might freak me out — but Dirk has an appendectomy scar that makes his bellybutton look like Munch's "The Scream" and that doesn't bother me at all. I'd still fuck you. (You're…welcome?)

I think the average lady is less visual, though, and is less likely to find changes like that bothersome, so I hope the gents of the Nation weigh in here. And I also hope you and your husband find a way to work it out with this, because his reaction is his reaction, but it shouldn't have taken him years to confront it.


Dear Sars and Nation,

I write with a book question — or perhaps it should be: an illustrated book question. I'm trying to track down a compendium of folk and fairy tales that I remember adoring when I was a child. The title was something along the lines of "Folk and Fairy Tales from Around the World," and I remember it most vividly for its amazing illustrations.

It contained many different stories. I remember the cover being the illustration of the first story, "The Frog [or possibly Toad] Princess" — and the prince holding the pillow upon which she rested was dressed in ornate Kievan/Russian garb. Other vivid story/illustration combos included: the Children of the Wind (Bantu?); the creation of the Sun and Moon (Aztec? Olmec?); a story in which a young woman marries the storm god and has to sew him lots of clothes or something (Inuit?); the Selkie bride story; Peer Gynt; "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" (or however the title goes); and many many others. Peer Gynt's illustrations were dark and gloomy and somehow, bizarrely, globular? I don't know; I just know they gave my elementary-school self the creeps. (There was one particularly bizarre picture in which he's grown a tail.) The creation of the sun and moon story had the waifish goddess who becomes the sun jumping into a fire (I think.) The Selkie story was illustrated by someone who won the Caldecott once — or at least, someone whose art looked very familiar. In fact, I believe that is how I tracked down the collection, once — looking through the children's book section at a bookstore until I found that illustrator, and then Googling extensively.

I would so very much appreciate it if the Nation could bring its power to the search instead, this time. Anybody know the book?

Yours sincerely,


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  • Dave P. says:

    "Would you fuck someone who wears one of these?"

    Sure, but I think it is hard for someone to know just what kinds of things are going to be bonerkillers in advance. I think I'd have zero problems with it, but I've been surprised at my raw emotional reactions to things lately, so I wouldn't want to promise anything one way or the other.

    I'll add that I don't see it as a common dealbreaker. The average guy is probably not going to have an issue with it, if they even notice it at all. Also, really disappointed in your husband that he let such an issue fester for so long. That's not a thing that makes me proud to be his fellow dude.

    I'm very happily married, otherwise I'd totally go all OKTomato and a/s/l you up.

  • Margot says:

    My apologies if I am not understanding the mechanics here…but couldn't you remove the skin button, have sex, and then re-apply? You say that you change its location every few days anyway, so it must come off your body and then go back on. Why not get frisky in between? Sorry that I am not addressing any of your other important questions (I am female, and my opinion is not the one you are seeking).

  • Marv in DC says:

    As a guy, I don't think it would bother me. It might take a little while to get used to it, but after three years I think that I would just get over it. It's not like it's something that you chose to get like a tongue piercing or a tattoo, it's something you need to have in order to have a healthy life. It seems to me that you having a healthy (and hopefully long) life would be something that your husband would want.

    That being said, I have met men who won't have sex with a woman if she hasn't shaved her legs (or other parts). I don't feel that way, and I should say that that seems to be more of an American attitude than a European one. I only say that cause I grew up overseas.

    Is there any possibility that he is using it as one of a number of reasons (or excuses) for your marriage being rocky?

  • Maria says:

    I feel like his disgust with it is something that happened as part of his feelings beginning to change. I think the door was already open. Seems like if he still really cared and was into you, he could have asked your help with it…like to wear a big bandaid over it for an hour or whatever to see if that could help him forget about it. But, he isn't that guy.

    I am certain I'd be fine with it after I got comfy that I wasn't going to "break" it. I know there is a period of adjustment and I would want to work it out. But I'm a chick, sooooo…

    I think you should also open yourself to the possibility that should you ever find yourself with someone new, he too could wear a pump and then you'd be on equal footing (and hopefully having a really great time). ;o)

    I'm sorry he hurt your feelings, and I hope you find happiness either with him or without him. It's good to try, because you won't want to be nibbled at by doubts that you could have done more. Good luck!!!

  • Maria says:

    Have you had a look at any of the diabetes blogs? The one I like best is Kerri wears a pump and maybe she can ask her readers who found love post-pump if they had problems over it in their relationships. Just thinking out loud since there is a lot of support in the online diabetes community.

  • Wehaf says:

    Hi Pump,

    My first thought was that the button may not be the real problem; instead your husband may be using it as a scapegoat for other issues. I suspect this at least in part because it seems like a complete non-issue to me: I would have no problem having sex with someone wearing one. Even if the tactile sensation bothered me, that would be really minor and fixable with a band-aid.

  • Jobiska says:

    Caught my children's librarian sister on the tail end of her lunch break and this is as far as she got: A stand-alone version of the Frog Princess in sumptuously-illustrated Russian garb. So perhaps if those pictures look right, Gennady Spirin might be a hook for your research?

  • Stephanie says:

    I can understand his squeamishness, somewhat, but it's not like this is some random hookup. It's your husband. I find it very surprising that he can't look past this. Marriage is pretty intimate, I've seen/heard my husband do some pretty unsexy things and I'm still attracted to him.

    I think it's worth sitting down with a neutral third-party and really get to the heart of what the issue is here. This is fixable but I think you need someone to help you navigate the sensitive issues of him not being attracted to you because of this not being the same as him not being attracted to you.

  • Kerry says:

    So I wrote this whole screed that was ungenerous to your husband, but that might just result in you being in a position where you have to defend him, and that's the worst, isn't it? So I deleted it. I'll leave him out of this.

    I'd fuck the hell out of you, lady. It's a sticker with a needle in the back of it, right? It's not like it's a gaping open wound or something. (Although, people with gaping open wounds need to get laid, too.)

    I think that finding a dude who will fuck you should be about as easy/difficult as finding a decent dude. Don't sweat this.

  • Angharad says:

    @Suzanne, is it possibly "World Tales," collected by Idries Shah? The newer printings are text-only, but it was originally illustrated by close to 40 different artists. Amazon at least has the cover image of the original, if that's recognizable to you:

  • S says:

    My husband has a pump and I could care less about it during the times you discuss.

  • Jenny says:

    On the pump…..a couple of things leapt to mind. Neither of which really address your question, but I'll say them any way. The first being that this is the thing he is using as an excuse for some other reason he doesn't want to have sex with you. The second is maybe the health issues and the implications freak him out. If it was an otherwise good marriage, I would wonder if this was his way of worrying about your health.

    Just a few thoughts…

  • David says:

    Pumping: Yes. Yes I would. I can't imagine it being an issue for even a second in a situation where I wanted to, um, hit it. I'd be inclined to agree that there might be something underlying Husband's reaction were it not that, as Dave P. alludes to, the male erotic reaction can be surprisingly unpredictable. The "heart" wants what the "heart" wants, I guess.

  • Kate says:

    So my take on this is a little different. When I am in love with someone, they are exponentially more attractive to me than they would be otherwise. Like, I meet a guy, he is decent looking, we go out and then over weeks and months I fall in love with him and he gets, my hand to god, cuter and cuter as I do. It also works the other way — when I got divorced and when I broke off an engagement, the men in those situations had become ugly to me. So. I suspect that maybe the husband here is going through whatever — mid-life discontent, his own bonerkiller issues, whatever — and is fixating on this tiny button as a sort of scapegoat.

    Anyway. Like Sars said, I'd still fuck you and I know that the guy I'm with now would too. (You know, in that weird way where you get to rule that yes, the guy I am seeing totally would have hypothetical sex with this stranger on the internet.)

  • Debineezer says:

    I have to agree with Marv: Is there any possibility that he is using it as one of a number of reasons (or excuses) for your marriage being rocky? Again, I'm a girl, but my first reaction is "What a douche bag!" Yeah, you can't know in advance what turns you off, but you can be a partner and do your best not to be a jerk about 99% of the world is sensitive about: sex. I'd LIKE to think I'd say "Get over it!"…but I'm a girl and would probably blame myself. So, take my advice, I'm obviously not using it.

  • Megan says:

    Pump, not to make excuses, but is it possible that your husband doesn't like that he reacts this way and has been trying to suppress it? I have perhaps a higher than average reliance on visual stimuli, and if there's something I don't like visually about a guy I would otherwise be attracted to-say the shape of his nose, or something else he can't change easily-I will often find myself putting that feeling aside because he's otherwise a great guy, and I don't like what it says about me that the shape of his nose turns me off.

  • Leigh says:

    Also a lady here, but just trying to put myself in your husband's shoes…I could see touching what is essentially a medical device during an intimate moment being a kind of startling reminder of some of the more unpleasant truths about the human body/your partner's fragility, sure. I don't think he's completely crazy or that it's impossible to imagine that he might have that genuine reaction. HOWEVER, in a loving marriage where you are otherwise attracted to the person and invested in the relationship, I also can't really see that being something insurmountable. So I agree that this is a small issue indicating a much larger problem. Either he's really checking out of the marriage on a number of levels, and this is just one red flag on the long way down, or it's a place to start turning things around. For your sake, I'm glad it sounds like at least exploring the latter option is still on the table, and I hope it works out in a way that is ultimately happy-making for you.

    And FWIW, I also think that if you met someone new who was into you, it would NOT be a problem. I think it's wrapped up for your husband in a lot of other issues, and you can't think of it as being something genuinely, objectively icky. It's definitely not. In a solid, happy relationship, I think it would be a minor "Oh, that." at the very most.

  • Cimorene says:

    Not only would this not be weird to me, it's weird to hear that so many people might find it weird. It's weird that your husband thinks it's weird. I'm a lady who has dated ladies and is currently with a man, and I am positive that my partner would not be weirded out by this, like, AT ALL. Or, I might be a bit concerned that I'd break it/my partner for a bit, but then I'd get over it.

    The sticker thing is thinner than a quarter and less than an inch across? I don't know about y'all, but when I'm Doing It, I'm…usually distracted? Like, by the Doing It? Or, like, by the Prelude to the Doing It? So although a festering wound would definitely be distracting–I assume there is no festering, oozing nastiness–a little sticker wouldn't be.

    I mean, it's not entirely unlike a patch, right? There are patches for birth control and patches for quitting smoking. It's just that bodies are super weird and gross and biological. This seems like it's entirely within the relatively normal range of Weird Shit Bodies Do. So I'm guessing that the sticker has become the focus of all his issues with you/himself/your marriage/your relationship more generally.

  • Molly says:

    Pump, I wonder if it's less that Husband actually finds the button distasteful, and more that unexpectedly brushing against it sort of pulls his focus out of the sexytimes mindspace. If it serves as sort of a jarring reminder of your condition or of "real life" in general or whatever, I could see it being distracting for him. (Like in the movie Parenthood, where Steve Martin's trying to mack on Mary Steenburgen when all of a sudden she mentions something about the kids and he's like, "…and we're done here.") It might be worth trying to talk with him about why it bothers him — is it really just that he thinks it's unattractive? Or does it get him to thinking about your illness, or to worrying about whether he'll bump it out of place, or something like that? I don't know, just thinking out loud, so to speak.

    But that doesn't answer your actual question! I'm not a guy, so take it with a grain of salt, but I don't think it ultimately would be an issue for me. I do think I might have some questions about it, like is it safe for me to be touching it or whatever, but nothing insurmountable.

  • Candace says:

    I have a partner who's diabetic and wears a continuous glucose monitor, it's quite a bit bigger than the insulin pump button in the picture you posted. When he first got it I was a bit worried that I'd bump it and hurt him or pull it off somehow. Now I'm used to it and he's still completely hot.

  • john says:

    I find it very difficult (almost said "hard," sorry) to credit the husband's excuse. Certainly everyone has their issues, but it seems unreasonable that the line of squeamishness is drawn exactly there.

  • Marie says:

    I've been an endocrinologist for more than a decade and this is the first time I've heard of this particular issue. It's not really any different than if you had a bandaid on. I'm fairly confident most people would ignore it and just focus on the activity in progress. I wonder if your husband would be willing to try some desensitization techniques or cognitive behavior therapy to get over his problem with the device (I bet that this has more to do with worrying about illness/mortality/etc than an actual 'ick' factor).

    In the meantime, there are other places than the belly to choose for the insertion site ( although he might still accidentally run his hands across it or you could cover it up with lingerie.

  • Beth C. says:

    So, everyone else has covered that it doesn't seem like the button is the real issue angle, and I agree there, though I would leave room for some weird, irrational phobia. I can't handle the sound of a person hocking a loogie, for example, like I start to spontaneously dry heave if I hear it and try as I might I can't get used to it, so it is possible, just, given the context, not likely. Even if that is the case, though, if you love someone, well, you figure it out, go to therapy, try DYI exposure therapy, whatever.

    As far as other people, well, I dated a guy who didn't have a pump, but did have a similar entry port device and the once I really got used to the fact that I really wasn't going to hurt him or break it it really did become a non-issue, so yeah, while I can't promise everyone in the world would be down, I think more folks than not would be fine in the long run.

  • cinderkeys says:

    I'm sorry you're going through this, Pumping. I second the suggestion for a neutral third party. Counseling can't always fix marriages, but it can get you to the heart of what's going on faster, so you can at least have a better idea of whether it's fixable.

    Good luck. I hope we hear from you again.

  • LynzM says:

    I'm diabetic with a pump (pod-style) and a CGM. I have had multiple partners while wearing both devices and none who have been 'grossed out' by it enough to not have sex. There's been some amount of 'getting used to' and some amount of concern around hurting me / not running into them, etc., (and I do sometimes try to plan device-free times, for the mental freedom of that), but overall it's not been as bad as you describe in your situation. There are lots of people out there who will not be bothered beyond knowing how careful they should be.

    (((big hugs))) Diabetes can be a bitch in some complicated ways, for sure. Best wishes to you with sorting this out.

  • Jo says:

    I'm a straight girl, and I'd probably still fuck my fiance if he wore one of those. He has a scar that from your description, is bigger than your button, and that doesn't bug me.

    I'm with those who think there might be something else beyond his just not liking the sensation. Is it possible that feeling the button there makes him think of your health and mortality? That, even if it's not conscious, turns him off because it reminds him that you're both going to die someday?

    This is rhetorical, of course, because I don't want that much info but if it really is just the sensation, is there a way to avoid it during sex? Positions that make him less likely to touch it? A place you could move it on your body? And if you can be unhooked from the pump entirely, can the button just be taken off for the hour or so it takes to have sex?

    I think you'll have plenty of luck finding people who will have sex with you if your marriage doesn't work; but I also think it sounds like you want to be with your husband, so I think you should look into counseling.

  • abby says:

    I … what?

    OK. Composing self. Resisting urge to go off on husband.

    Our bodies carry the marks of the lives we've lived. My husband has scars from cancer surgery – if he didn't have them he'd probably be, you know, dead. My body carries the marks of giving birth to our child. These marks make us less objectively attractive. But they are our history, manifest.

    If I loved you and we had a history together, a plastic quarter on your torso would have no affect on my desire or ability to fuck you. It wouldn't even if I didn't love you actually, because it's a plastic quarter! I mean, really.

  • The Insulin Pump Poster says:

    Hey y'all!

    So, my question was posted yesterday; guess what Husband and I did first thing this morning — at HIS initiation? Hee. I can actually hear the collective "Yay!"

    Yeah, turns out it was, in fact, an excuse for other issues, which stem from insecurity with himself. (Postcoital verbatim discussion: "Hon, I gotta ask you something." "Yeah." "Does my button still bother you?" "What? (genuinely does not know what I'm referring to, then light dawns) Oh…… no." At which point he realized all by himself what a douchey thing that was to do, and apologized.

    It's not resolved, but he knows and admits that these are his own issues. He knows I want him to see a doctor, but I'm not going to press it right now. I'm just going to be happy that we're finally Doing It.

    I should say that I thought about online diabetic support groups, but the thing is, when you're diabetic, you have to think about it all the freakin' time, right; so when I go online, I'd rather be with non-diabetic groups — like the Nation — where I don't have to think about it, for once.

    Anyway. I really appreciate everyone's responses, and hope we all get laid tonight.

  • --Lisa says:

    The IPP – Good news! :)

  • Cat_slave says:

    @Suzanne: I don't know that book, but two well known and a bit older Russian artists that have illustrated Russian fairy tales are Ivan Bilibin and Viktor Vasnetsov. If any of these seem familiar, it might help your search?

  • Elisa says:

    I keep going back to the part where you say you've been married for sixteen years and you've had the pump for three. Did you notice a change in his behavior around the time you got it? If so, he may genuinely have some sort of ick-factor around it.

    But even if that were true, that's a pretty weak excuse for his behavior. Especially since you move it around and it can be put in less conspicuous places. I don't know, I agree with others that this is his excuse for something else.

  • Jo says:

    Hey, good news! Here's hoping things keep improving. :)

  • camilleon says:

    I'm late to the game with this reply. And before I get to the meat and potatoes of what I want to add, here's the dessert: Glad husband is open to seeing a doctor/therapist about any underlying marital issues, IPP/Pumping. That's really good news, especially since you two have close to 16 years together. Good luck and happy banging! : )

    Meat and potatoes: I wonder if husband is like me in that constant reminders of a partner's health problems can be…affecting, for lack of a better word. I don't mean affecting as in "I can't get it up to even want to bone down with you." I mean affecting as in "You're not 100% totally and completely OK inside? Like, medically inside? Damn." When you realize the person you love, the person you plan on spending the rest of your days with, suffers from something (however smallish, like diabetes, because well: hello, cancer!), it just shines a light on their mortality. And if you're the type that walks around saying, "Yeah, yeah. Death schmeath. We're all gonna die someday! Ooooh is that bacon I smell?" then it can be a cold hard slap to the face to be confronted with even the tiniest proof that when it comes to the body and your health, shit can go sideways any damn day. If that is his deal, then hopefully talking to someone will help.

  • Emmers says:

    I think it's fair for the pump to be a turnoff to someone, but he needs to figure out ways to get over that or work around it (with you). "In sickness and in health" and all that.

    Unless this is just an excuse for something else, in which case, :-/

  • Emmers says:

    Oh nm, just saw the update! Yay! Good luck, LW.

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