Sororal Polygyny

Updated: NOVEMBER 30, 2020

Sororal polygyny is a term for a polygamous marriage in which two or more sisters share a husband.

Some Native American tribes and Muslim countries have a history of practicing sororal polygyny and it is still practiced today by some cultures, including some traditional African tribes.

Sororal polygyny is also known as sororate, a term coined by Scottish social anthropologist James George Frazer, who collected data about this marital arrangement and its practice around the world throughout history.

More About Sororal Polygyny

As with non-sororal polygyny, sororal polygyny is attractive to men who wish to satisfy a need for numerous sex partners, especially in societies where women are abstinent after having babies. Sororal polygyny is a more socially acceptable or moral way of satisfying this desire than having extra-marital affairs or soliciting sex workers. Sororal polygyny may be more common in cultures where the head of a large household is regarded with prestige.

Sororal polygyny is often thought to be a better polygamous marriage arrangement than non-sororal polygyny, or a marriage in which women who aren’t sisters share a husband, as sisters are believed to be more supportive of one another, less jealous, and less argumentative than non-siblings. These theories are supported by statistics suggesting that 86 percent of sororal co-wives live close to one another, compared to just 49 percent of non-sororal co-wives.

In the practice of sororal polygyny, it is most commonly the eldest sister who marries her husband first. She is joined in the marriage by her sisters as they become adults.


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