Flirty Fishing (FFing) was a form of religious prostitution practiced by the Children of God/The Family cult from 1974 until it was officially discontinued in 1987 (due, in part, to the AIDS scare). Its etymology can be traced to Matthew 4:19 where Jesus says "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Flirty Fishing was a subset of The Family's love bombing activities and involved the use of sexual attraction and intercourse to win converts and favors. Female members were told to be "God's whores" and "hookers for Jesus", and soon after its launch as a method of witnessing, sex was given to complete strangers in combination with a request for a "donation", or for a required fee in line with Escort Servicing (ESing) or freelance ESing. FFing and prostitution was widely used as a way to raise money for the cult and resulted in many of the second generation births (known as "Jesus Babies"). Internal Family records from 1988 indicate that over 223,000 "fish" were loved sexually between 1978 and 1988.
The Family describes the practice of Flirty Fishing as follows:
In The Family's internal FF Report Questions & Answers! (PDF), the following description is given:
In 1995, after extensive research of Family publications and receiving testimony from numerous witnesses, the Right Hon. Lord Justice Sir Alan Ward stated the following about FFing in his judgment of a child-custody trial involving the Family in England:
In a trend seen througout the globe, the advent of AIDS wrought changes in the perceptions of the merit of "free sex". The threat of sexually transmitted diseases was the anti-thesis to the gratuitous sexual lifestyle and The Family was compelled to curtail Flirty Fishing in 1987 and all sex with Systemites (non-members) during this same period for multiple reasons.
Coinciding with increased scrutiny of The Family's sexual practices the cult elected to reduce sexual contact with outsiders and reinvent their image to the outside world by shedding the "free sex" image from their hippie past in favor of a more conservative and current image, seeing the AIDS epidemic as a good time to do so.
While this marked a historic juncture in The Family's sexual disclosure to the outside world, it reduced promiscuity within The Family only insofar as to seek to contain contagion.
The following explanation of Flirty Fishing's discontinuation is given on the official Family website:
Flirty Fishing and the second generation
Flirty Fishing was responsible for a significant number of childbirths in The Family. Children born as a result of Flirty Fishing were called "Jesus Babies". The Family used a comic book called "Life with Grandpa - Real Fathers", among other publications, to explain some associated issues to the second generation.
- Note: For help playing these video files and links to recommended media players, see Help:Video
- Faith Berg describes how Flirty Fishing began (1:10, 3.0MB) — From "The Love Prophet" documentary.
- Flirty Fishing in Osaka-Kobe, Japan (10:17, 24.4MB) — Family members in Osaka, Japan report on their Flirty Fishing activities.
- Bought with a price! – A How-To Manual for Escort FF'ers! — (from Heavenly Helpers, Vol. 4, Part-Time Supporters! Section III: ES & FFing!, pg. 377-392)
- Monthly FF Report documents — includes memo from Barbara Canevaro regarding a new version of the FF Report and "FF Report Questions and Answers" article. (Family News Vol. 4 No. 7, pg. 7-8, 1978)
- Escort Work — description of different types of prostitution Family members engaged in. (FN Encyclopedia, pg. 962)
- Family Run "Escort" Agencies — (FN Encyclopedia, pg. 963)
- Monthly FF Witnessing Report — form for Family prostitutes to record information on their clients. (from Monthly FF Report documents)
- Alternative FFers' report form — (FN Encyclopedia)
- FF Stats — Family report of Flirty Fishing statistics more than a year after FFing was "discontinued." (1988-10-01)
- True Komix - Little Flirty Fishy — illustrated explanation of Flirty Fishing for Family children. (DO TK293, 1982)
- True Komix - The 7 F's of FFing! — (DO TK1083, 1982-04)
- Beauty and the Beasts! — illustrated comic of an FFing story. (1978-03)
Below is an incomplete list of Mo Letters dealing with Flirty Fishing.
- True Komix - The Love of God— volume of illustrated Mo Letters about Flirty Fishing and sex
- King Arthur's Nights series
- You Are The Love of God! — (DO 699, 1978-06-05)
- Does FFing Pay? — (DO 652, 1977-09-06)
- God's Whores? — (DO 560, 1976-04-26)
- God's Love Slave! — (DO 537, 1974-04-21)
- The Adventures of a Flirty-Fish! – Another "All Things" Sharing! — (LTO 532, 1974-03-31)
- The One That Got Away!–Part II: Jesus and Sex! — (LTO 525, 1974-03-11)
Mo Letter covers
Does FFing Pay? (DO652)
The Little Flirty Fishy! (DO TK293)
You Are The Love of God! (DO699)
King Arthur's Nights! chapter 1
God's Whores? (DO560)
God's Love Slave! (DO537)
The Adventures of a Flirty-Fish! (LTO532)
…Jesus and Sex! (LTO525)
Journalistic and popular publications
- Heaven's Harlots: My Fifteen Years As a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult — Williams, Miriam (1998)
- San Francisco Chronicle: Escaping a Free Love Legacy Children of God sect hopes it can overcome sexy image — Lattin, Don (2001-02-14)