Flirty Fishing

Flirty Fishing (FFing) was a form of evangelistic religious prostitution practiced ca. 1974-87 by female members in the new religious movement (or cult), the Children of God, now known as The Family International.

Etymology, definition

The term refers to 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. FFing was defined as using sex appeal for proselytisation; if masturbation, oral 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 cult 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 crucification) "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 didn't "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 (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 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 cult.

See also

External links

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