The sex workers who sell access to their real lives

Like anyone in the oldest profession, Cortana Blue sells intimacy. The difference is that she sells it via social media.

Since setting it up last year, 1,000 people have bought a lifetime's subscription to her Snapchat account.

For that, her fans regularly get to see her naked. But they also get access to her daily life. "You get to chat with me whenever you want," she says.

Social media is just the latest marketplace where sex is bought and sold.

But the new generation of sex workers setting up shop are finding that their fans are as interested in their shopping trips, bad jokes and pets as much as their bodies.

To some researchers, this new type of trade is intriguing because it speaks to a broader trend in the way social media is changing our interactions.

"If you look with a microscope at what's happening in the sex industry it tells us a lot about what's happening with our relationships in the wider world," says Teela Sanders of the University of Leicester in the UK.

Even outside the sex industry, social media is blurring the distinction between those we do and don't have a 'real' relationship with.

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift have armies of devoted followers who pore over their Instagram updates.

But apps like Snapchat that encourage one-to-one messaging can make some relationships feel more personal - and even reciprocal.

The internet changed what it meant to be a sex worker, says Sanders, who has researched the sex industry for more than 15 years.

Sex work once meant exchanging sex for money but now there are many degrees of sexual interaction - from physical contact to interacting via a screen - that encourage people who would ordinarily never have considered entering the sex industry to take part.

Read the full article here