Flirty Fishing (FFing) is a form of evangelistic religious prostitution practiced by female members of the Children of God, currently known as Family International (TFI), from around 1974 to 1987. According to some sources, hundreds of thousands of men were "fished" before the practice was discontinued.
Etymology and definition
The term is derived from Matthew 4:19 from the New Testament, in which Jesus tells two fishermen that he will make them "fishers of men". Cult leader David Berg extrapolated from this that women in his movement should be "flirty fishers" (also called "bait" or "fisherwomen"). The targeted men were called "fish". The cult published several documents with exact instructions. Flirty Fishing was defined as using sex appeal for proselytizing. If masturbation, oral, or penetrative sex ensued, this was termed as "loving sexually", and also counted as a "deep witness", meaning that the "bait" earned more brownie points within the group than by mere flirting. Berg noted that Flirty Fishing did not necessarily entail intercourse, but that this was by far the most efficient method of proselytizing.
Within the Family of God
Impact on members
Women who objected to being what the cult itself bluntly described as "God's whores" or "hookers for Jesus" were admonished not to "let self and pride enter in", and reminded that their body did not really belong to them as according to 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 it had been "bought" (by Jesus through his crucifixion) "with a price". After an initial phase, male members no longer partook in this drive, partially because of the cult's dismissive stance towards homosexuality, but also because Berg thought it did not "pay off financially". Many of the flirty fishers had boyfriends, were married, or had children. In Family publications, flirty fishers and escort service practitioners (see below) frequently reported that they found their work hard, dangerous, and exhausting.
The financial benefit of Flirty Fishing soon led to a further degeneration of the practice from mere flirting into "loving sexually" to "escort servicing" (ESing)—described as "making FFing pay" by Berg—in which female cult members would work as regular call girls for escort agencies or freelance, and merely "witness" (proselytize) to their clients when the occasion offered itself.
The Children of God practised flirty fishing and escort servicing from 1974 until 1987, when it was officially abandoned, in part because of the AIDS epidemic. As the women were expected to keep exact records of their "fruits" (successes), a 1988 statistic showed that more than 223,000 men had been "fished" since 1978—and that FFing had nevertheless continued into 1988. As the cult generally discourages birth control, the practice also resulted in numerous pregnancies, the offspring of which were termed Jesus babies by the organization.
- Flirty Fishing, xFamily
- "'The Family' and Final Harvest". Washington Post. June 2, 1993. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
Sure, Alexander concedes, plenty of people object that The Family's 'Law of Love' permits sex outside marriage and that the group once condoned a practice known as 'flirty fishing' – the use of sex to win converts.
- FFing Statistics
- Matthew 4:19 (KJV, NIV, NKJV). Retrieved from BibleGateway.com.
- FF Reports, Questions & Answers
- In a 1982 family publication, Berg stated that only one-seventh (14%) of fish were "loved sexually", but he also noted that "loving sexually" was far and above the most effective method of witnessing in that it was 3,000 times more effective than conventional forms of proselytizing. The 7 F's of FFing!
- True Komix #293 DO "The Little Flirty Fishy"
- 1 Corinthians 19–20 (KJV)
- Escort Servicing
- "Jesus baby" article from xfamily.org
- "China cult targeted as 'doomsday' nears".
- The History and Theological Premise of Flirty Fishing (1977-1987) on davidberg.com.
- Flirty Fishing on xFamily.org a wiki about the Children of God. Warning: Explicit drawings.
- Lattin, Don (14 February 2001). "Escaping a Free Love Legacy: Children of God sect hopes it can overcome sexy image". San Francisco Chronicle.