Israeli-Australian author Lee Kofman dreamed of a love that could coexist with sexual freedom. With this in mind, she decided to experiment with an open marriage. Kofman has since written a book about her experience – including the period where sex become so rare she and her partner Noah saw a sex therapist.
The longer our relationship continued, the more heavily the sex weighed on us.
Sexless doesn’t describe how we were together. Our bodies touched constantly; we’d built our love upon the sensuality of caresses, of a hand in another’s hand. At night, we slept intertwined. When Noah touched me, I often shuddered. He loved it when I covered his wide, brown face with kisses, when I held him in my arms, but my touch didn’t seem to affect his nerve ends the way his did mine.
Rather than being sexless, I’d say we were fuckless. We made love perhaps once a month, occasionally more, but we hardly ever fucked. Noah claimed to be happy, yet I found it difficult to believe he needed so little sexually. In every other way, he was a man of ardour. I loved his energy, his fierceness, the fact that his favourite mode of conversation was argument, whether about carbon reductions or the Magpies.
I loved that his decision-making was quick and his humour dark. He drove like a daredevil, danced well, and generally moved with vitality. His love for me was vital too. You would call Noah passionate if you expanded the application of the word. He phoned to say he loved me during even his most chaotic working hours.
He bought an overpriced, indecently red massage armchair just because I said I liked it. At weekends, he’d rise early to get coffee and croissants from the Starbucks downstairs while I slept. He bought me dresses that always fitted. Despite his lack of interest in poetry, Noah accompanied me whenever I did a public reading.
‘Look at my wife,’ he was in the habit of saying to anyone who cared to listen, ‘Isn’t she beautiful? I have no idea what’s she doing with me.’
Then his generous lips would pout in that particular way I loved, waiting for my kiss.
When we first met, I was struck by Noah’s smell. Unlike the meaty smells of Israeli soldier men, his embodied the civilised man - a complex bouquet of fine cologne, chewing gum, Marlboros and fresh laundry. A long way into our togetherness, I’d sniff his clothes and wear his t-shirts whenever he was away travelling for work. As time passed, though, I stopped noticing his smell. Or maybe I willed myself to stop.
In our first years together, the strangeness of our passion that was passionless - or our non-passion that was so passionate - was less in the foreground for me. Shortly after Noah and I moved in together, my Australian residency was finalised, ending my years of not being able to study and working in odd underpaid jobs. I then plunged into chasing my version of the Australian dream, acquiring degrees, local professional work experience and, most importantly, becoming a writer in English. When my work began appearing in Australian and overseas journals, this counted for almost everything.