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The Agony & the Ecstasy

Charlotte's fetish underground



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Sapphire grew up in Winston-Salem, and moved to Charlotte when she was 12. She was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, but rebelled at an early age. "Things like paganism and BDSM were always interesting to me," she says. "I always liked art and alternative people, but my family didn't talk about 'those things.'" Sapphire's outré interests eventually alienated her from her family, and when she turned 16 they sent her to Sacramento, California. They've had very little contact with her since.

While Sapphire was in California, she started dating a guy who was into the BDSM lifestyle, and "started experimenting" with whips and floggers. "I liked the headspace that it got me into," she says. "It gets the adrenaline and endorphins running in your system. It's euphoric. That's one of the reasons why I get piercings." (She has 14).

In addition to working as a dominatrix, Sapphire also performs as a fetish dancer at various SingleCell productions, including the upcoming Purgatory. However, in order to pay the bills, Sapphire works full-time at AEBN — one of the country's largest "pay-per-view" porn companies, which is based in Charlotte.

While Mistress Sapphire says she wishes she and her family were closer, she has no regrets about the life she's chosen. "This feels natural to me," she says. "I've tried to wear polo shirts and khakis and it was just like...what am I doing? I like entering a room as this larger than life character wearing vinyl with floggers and whips. I wish my parents were more open-minded, but Jehovah's Witnesses is very cult-like. Ironically, that's just what they think about me."

Just A Couple Next Door

Tucked away on a quiet cul-de-sac in east Charlotte lives a young couple. When I arrive at their home they're just finishing dinner, and it's the picture of domestic normalcy. Lots of ceramic unicorns are on display, a couple of movie posters adorn the wall, and two lazy cats snooze on the couch. However, all is not as it seems. I'm led upstairs to the couple's "playroom," where soft, red lights illuminate about a dozen whips and floggers hanging on the wall, each costing about $150 or more. The futon set against the wall doubles as a "spanking bench," I'm told. And I notice a dangerous looking pair of black stiletto heels near the closet. This is the lair of Mistress Genevieve, a professional in the financial field by day, and dominatrix by night.

Before she became a dominatrix, Mistress Genevieve was just a young girl living in Rock Hill who would drive up to Charlotte and party at clubs like the Pterodactyl. This was during the mid-90s when Marilyn Manson and the Goth scene were at their height. "The fetish/dominatrix aspect progressed naturally." she says.

One night while at the Pterodactyl, the Goth band that was playing needed an extra dancer, and they pulled her up on stage. "I was dressing in leather and I guess I looked the part," she says. "I really liked it. After that I started seeking it out a little more, and really explored the dominatrix thing."

She was also getting over a bad relationship. "What I had been doing up till then wasn't working," she says. "The guy I was engaged to ended up dumping me on Valentine's Day for his best friend's ex-wife. With him it had been like a traditional marriage. He'd come home from work and plop down on the couch, and I cooked dinner. I did all the things the 'good little wife' was supposed to, and it didn't work. So I was looking for something different. It's not that I'm a man hater, but I don't have the right personality for that kind of relationship. I like being in control. I like being dominant."

She got on the Internet and started looking for S&M groups, and eventually met up with folks like Mistress LunaSea, and started performing at various BDSM functions. About three years ago she and a business partner opened a dominatrix dungeon, where she sees about 15 regular clients every few months, and about 15 others who come in once or twice a year. These folks — typically men in their 30s and 40s — pay $150 for an hour-long session of domination.

"My clients are primarily looking for a vacation for the mind," says Mistress Genevieve. "A lot of them have very stressful careers. When they come to the dungeon they don't have to think, they don't have to make a single decision. All they have to do is lay there, do what I say, and be told what scum they are. There's no sexual contact. I'm not a prostitute. It's more about them being free and letting go."

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