Review: HeidiWorld Wants You To Rethink Prostitution

Podcaster Molly Lambert's gambit to get listeners to critically examine the conflation of sex work is mostly successful.


Just as the '90s nostalgia boom is peaking, a new podcast arrives set in the pleasingly seedy world of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Host Molly Lambert is explicit about her agenda in the first of the series's 10 episodes: She's using Fleiss' story to push listeners to reconsider the criminalization of prostitution, and to critically examine the conflation of sex work and sex trafficking.

Her gambit is mostly successful. Lambert's presentation of Fleiss as a restless, ambitious woman who serves time for facilitating transactions between consenting adults is sympathetic without being fluffy or flattering. HeidiWorld suffers from a mild case of Wikipedia disease; each new setting or character gets a too-thorough backstory. But the central narrative about sex, money, and power is just as fascinating today as it was to the scandal sheets and magazine shows of Fleiss' heyday.