) is the name of a form of evangelistic religious prostitution
practiced from around 1974 to 1987 by female members in the new religious movement
, the Children of God
, now known as The Family International
The term refers to Matthew
4:17 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. FFing was defined as using sex appeal for proselytisation; if masturbation
or penetrative sex
ensued this was termed as "loving sexually" and also counted as a "deep witness"—which meant that the "bait" earned more brownie points
within the group than by mere flirting. Berg noted that FFing did not necessarily entail intercourse but that this was by far the most efficient method of proselytism.
The group claimed that the purposes of Flirty Fishing were for women to show God's love to men, to win converts to the group, and to garner material and financial support for the group. As cult members usually live in communes, travel a lot and spend their time proselytizing rather than earning a regular income, the financial aspect soon became dominant. The cult also used FFing to curry favours with local men of influence such as business men, politicians or police.
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 didn't 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 FFers had boyfriends or were married, or had children. In Family publications, FFers and ESers frequently reported that they found their work hard, dangerous and exhausting.
The financial benefit of FFing soon lead to a further degeneration of the practice from mere flirting into "loving sexually" to Escort Servicing
)—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 practiced FFing and ESing from 1974 until 1987, when it was officially abandoned, partially 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 incidentally 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.