Flirty Fishing (FFing) is 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.
 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". (This is somewhat misreading of the original text – the Greek reads "people", not "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.
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 Flirty Fishing 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 Flirty Fishers had boyfriends or were married, or had children. In Family publications, Flirty Fishers and Escort Servicers 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 practiced Flirty Fishing and Escort Servicing 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 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.
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