Wife-lending was a practice in pre-Islamic Arabia whereby husbands allowed their wives to live with “men of distinction” to produce noble offspring. The husband, who abstained while his wife lived with the other man, would then be socially considered the father of the child.
Temporary spouse-trading is practiced as an element of ritual initiation into the Lemba secret society in the French Congo through “wife exchange:” “you shall lay with the priestess-wife of your Lemba Father, and he shall lay with your wife too.”
Among the Orya of northern Irian Jaya, the agama toŋkat (Indonesian for ‘walking-stick’) cult “encouraged men to trade wives, i.e., to have sexual relations with each other’s wives. This trading of sexual favours … was only between pairs of families, … adherents are now very secretive concerning cult activities and teachings.” In this ‘walking-stick’ cult “the walking stick … dute is the term men use to refer to the husband of the woman who becomes his sexual partner.”Furthermore, “There have been other similar movements … near Jayapura. These are popularly called Towel Religion (agama handuk) and The Simpson Religion (agama simpson).”
Among the Mimika of southern Irian Jaya, temporary spouse-trading is said to have been originated by a woman who had returned from the world of the dead: “The wife says to her husband, ‘… tonight I will sleep in the house of the headman …, and … his wife, will sleep in your house. Because I have been dead …, tonight I am going to do for the first time what people have been looking forward to (for so long). I am going to institute the papisj, wife exchange.'”
Inuit and Aleut
Inuit wife trading has often been reported and commented on. Temporary “wife-lending … was apparently more common among the Aleuts than Eskimos”. Several motivations for temporary spouse-trading among the Inuit have been suggested:
At the instigation of an aŋekok (shaman), as a magical rite to achieve better weather for hunting-expeditions
as a regular feature of the annual “Bladder Festival”
for a man visiting unaccompanied by his wife, under the promise that he will in the future make his own wife sexually available to his host whenever the host will himself come visiting his erstwhile guest.
Among the Inuit, a very specialized and socially-circumscribed form of wife-sharing was practiced. When hunters were away, they would often stumble into the tribal lands of other tribes, and be subject to death for the offense. But, when they could show a “relationship” by virtue of a man, father or grandfather who had sex with their wife, mother or other female relatives, the wandering hunter was then regarded as family. The Inuit had[when?] specific terminology and language describing the complex relationships that emerged from this practice of wife sharing. A man called another man “aipak,” or “other me,” if the man had sex with his wife. Thus, in their conception, this other man having sex with one’s wife was just “another me.”
South American Indians
Among the Araweté (Asurini) in the state of Pará, Brazil, “spouse-swapping” is practiced.
Among the Bari tribe of Venezuela, when a woman becomes pregnant, the women often take other male lovers. These additional lovers then take on the role of secondary or tertiary fathers to the child. If the primary father should die, the other men then have a social obligation to support these children. Research has shown that children with such “extra” fathers have improved life outcomes, in this economically and resource-poor area of the jungle.