50 shades of Red Fox: How Kiwi dominatrix went from gumboots to leather boots

Warning: This story contains sexual references

Only a few years ago, Jess Monk was a free-range chicken farm manager who was used to working outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Now the 49-year-old Marlborough woman has swapped muddy gummies for thigh-high leather boots and is her own boss, working only a few days a week, with an hourly rate higher than she ever thought was possible.

Jess is proud to say she has found her dream job and, with it, a transformative sense of self-worth that has seen her become the vivacious “Red Fox”, a red-haired dominatrix providing tailored BDSM services out of her suburban garage in Picton.

“When I decided to do this, it was not about the money – but the money has been surprisingly good,” she tells Woman’s Day. “And I’m really proud that I’m quite good
at it. I’m happier with my occupation than I’ve ever been. I should’ve done this years ago. But as a young woman, I didn’t have the confidence or self-esteem.”

It’s only now she’s about to turn 50 that she finally feels good about herself. “I love
it because I did it all myself. It takes some guts to set up your own business later in life and change tack.”

It was three years ago, having had a few Bucks Fizz cocktails on Christmas morning, that Jess told her family she had an announcement to make.

“I think my mum thought I was going to get engaged to my partner at the time. She was all excited and then I said, ‘I’m going to be a dominatrix!’ She put her head in her hands and wailed, ‘What am I going to tell the ladies at golf?'”

Her brother and sister were not completely shocked – “the words ‘a bit fruity’ are used to describe me by my family” – but they were worried for her safety as they initially thought she was engaging in sex.

But Jess quickly explained that her clients would come to her to be told what to do – to
be dominated. “So most of them are quite frightened of me. Also, I pre-vet them and if I have any kind of hesitation, I might ask them for to go for a cup of coffee the day before.”

She adds: “There’s a large misconception that dominatrix work involves sex and while I salute people who want to do that, it’s just not me. This is about psychological domination. I guess it’s kind of sex work, but there’s no sex.”

Wanting to address some of the stigma in her work, Jess agreed to feature in Kiwi Garages, a new book about the average New Zealander’s happy place (Bateman Books, $45, on sale now).

“People who visit a dominatrix are not perverts,” she insists. “They just have something fun and sexy that they want to explore further. Often, they feel they can’t share that side of them with their partner or that other men won’t understand them wanting to be dominated by woman. It’s a privilege to be able to provide that service.”

When starting out, Jess approached other “dommes”, however, none were keen on giving up their trade secrets. So she did a first-aid course, and researched safe ways to inflict pain and incarcerate.

“Safety is a really big element. A rope can be tied in the wrong place and result in serious nerve damage. You have to know what you’re doing. Very occasionally, clients pay for an overnighter, where they are literally locked in a cage overnight with a baby monitor for safety.”

Jess – who goes by the term “domina”, Latin for “lady of the house” – has two degrees,a Bachelor of Science in zoology and psychology, and her study of animal behaviour helps her read her clients’ reactions.

“We have a safe word they can use to make it all stop – and aftercare matters too.
They come out of it smiling, with their bodies full of endorphins. Clients tell me they feel so relaxed, they liken it to meditation.

“They’ve been so focused that it’s cleared their minds and they’re not worrying about paying bills. I put a blankie around them, give them a drink and some snacks, and make sure they’re okay. I don’t expect them to just jump in their cars and leave.”

Jess’ clients travel from across the South Island, although some are close to home in Picton, so she asks in advance if they’re comfortable being acknowledged if they bump into each other in the supermarket.

“Admittedly, a lot of them have got partners, so they don’t want to be smiling
and waving at the local dominatrix!”

Not that her neighbours have any issue with the unusual “home office” Jess has on their street.

“They all know what goes on and they’re cool about it,” she shares. “Most clients
park down the road, but occasionally they’ll stop right outside.”

Covid-19 has put a stop to sessions as Red prefers in-person meetings rather than online ones.

“I personally really like to be a bit more hands-on, so to speak, because I find it much more rewarding when you can bounce off each other in this atmosphere. And you can inflict pain, which is always fun for me.”

At the moment, Jess is contracting as a Covid vaccination adviser to keep her busy until Red Fox can take control again. She also fills her spare time gardening and walking her two 13-year-old fur babies, a blue heeler called Basil and a fox terrier called Bella.

Jess has never married and is quite happy with a partner whose bedroom tendencies are more mainstream.

“I’ve had relationships before where I’ve been the dominant partner, which I enjoy, but sometimes my love life has been fairly vanilla because it’s not the be all and end all for me to get a partner who is kinky or submissive.

“When I meet a new man, I’m really open about it. It’s definitely something that makes a lot of men uncomfortable, but a good man is going to not really care – they respect my job and my decisions.

“When I started out, I was worried that I wasn’t exactly supermodel material, but I soon discovered that wasn’t important.

“If you can do the job professionally and safely, that’s what matters. There are dommes out there who are fat, thin, young and old. Men don’t care.

“I’m sad in some ways that I didn’t have this self-love when I was in my 20s and 30s because it’s a great feeling. My clients look at me with so much respect and I really am finding it very empowering.”

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