Like most mothers, when I imagine future career choices for my daughter, hardcore pornography does not even make the list. And yet thousands of young women choose to make a living performing sex acts in front of the camera, which is not something that is easy for me to understand.

As a politically liberal Christian, I grew up being taught that while sex should be reserved for marriage, it is not my place to judge other people’s life choices. As a result, I tend to view pornography with equal parts acceptance, curiosity, repulsion, amusement, and yes, a certain level of condescension for those that perform it. But if I remind myself that each of these women is someone’s beloved daughter, I can confront my tendency to dissociate them from their humanity.

By rephotographing images of sexual penetration—vaginal, oral, anal, or a combination—out of context, I am forcing myself to look past the sex act to see the woman performing it. I examine her face, her eyes, her gestures. I see determination, pain, defiance, and pleasure—or at least the performance of it. And I wonder, who is she?

Who is Melina Mason, featured in Hustler Magazine’s December 2014 Hardcore Showcase? She left her fiancé in New York to do porn and says she was surprised to be able to have multiple climaxes in front of the camera. She has three Salvador Dalí tattoos. Born on Long Island, NY on May 26, 1990, we share the same birthday. 

Dahlia Sky? She is also known as Bailey Blue, Amber Rose, and Shyla Jameson. With 297 performer credits in only 4 years, she reports that she “just learned how to squirt.” She was born in Lake Elsinore, California, only 70 miles from where I live. 

And Alyssa Branch? She proudly claims she is “the only girl in the porn industry who can tie her pussy lips in a knot.” She was born on February 17, 1992 in Detroit, Michigan and started working in porn 18 years later, when I was deep into my MFA program.

I invite you now to spend some time examining these beloved daughters through my lens.