Many young LGBTQ+ people in Tennessee grow up with dreams of escaping the rural South for a more free, liberal urban environment—Chicago, New York, D.C., or at least Atlanta or Nashville. College is often the vehicle for that escape, and it’s the vehicle that brought Garrett Kinsley from rural Tennessee to the nation’s capital. But from there, his story departs from the norm.

You see, this pretty twink from Tennessee—like the grad student lead in the Netflix show Bonding—found an atypical way to cover those college costs and fund that city life. He became a professional dominatrix (his chosen term) his freshman year, before joining [NSFW] Helix Studios’ stable of twinks his sophomore year.

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Garrett might not fit the common mold of a gay dom—a big muscle daddy in leather, a la Tom of Finland—which may be why the term dominatrix fits so well. But when it comes to desire fulfillment, he takes his job seriously, having hones skills with blades and in breath control. Read more about how this Tennessee boy has come to dominate some of the nation’s most powerful men and much more below.

Interview with Garrett Kinsley

James Grady: You grew up in rural Tennessee? What was life like there for you as a gay boy?

Garrett Kinsley: It was definitely interesting, because I didn't get to grow up with the life and luxuries that some people in other more progressive areas of the world have. But I love where I grew up. It's definitely somewhere that feels like home. It's interesting getting to experience growing up in the south as a gay man.

Garrett Kinsley. Photo courtesy of Helix Studios, photographed by AJ Ford

James Grady: Did you did you experience much bullying?

Garrett Kinsley: You know, I don't think I I don't think I was ever like super directly bullied. I mean, people did it behind my back and stuff like that. They were so rude ... my school was shady. They would never do to your face. They're all fake.

James Grady: I mean, I guess there are worse things than East Tennessee Gossip Girl…

Garrett Kinsley: That! Very that! But yeah … I did have this one time in school where one girl had called me gay. I really didn't know what that meant or anything like that. And I told my mom, and my mom was like, "Do not have any idea what that means?" I was just like, "I straight-up have no idea what that is..."

James Grady: So definitely a lack of representation there if you managed to get that far without knowing what gay meant! What was coming out like?

Garrett Kinsley: I mean, it was one of those things that my mother had to kind of get used to. Because she was like, "Oh, my baby! He hates the Lord!" I was like, "No, I don't hate the Lord, I just don't think he's real... That's not the same thing!" But she definitely got into it. My dad ... I think to him, it just doesn't really matter to him because he has his own like values of the importance of things in his mind. My sexuality is not on that scale.

James Grady: Your life took a pretty wild turn after high school. How did you get it in your head that you were going to do dominatrix work and porn?

Garrett Kinsley: I think I always kind of knew. I remember reading an interview where Alex Riley was explaining he always had some weird calling. It was just always there. And that's how I kind of feel. And it just kind of just kind of fell into my lap. It was really opportunistic. I mean, I was doing dominatrix work before I started in adult entertainment. But I definitely wasn't too foreign to that realm, but it's definitely not the same thing.

James Grady: Yeah, one is very public, and one is very private, and they each have their own specific concerns… So you started working as a dominatrix first. How did you get into that?

Garrett Kinsley: Oh, gosh, how did I get into that? Well, it's kind of started small. I was doing like here and there things... People would give me massages on grinders and stuff for money. This was just kind of the next step and I felt okay with it. It was something for me to feel comfortable—I felt okay being in that position of power and having that right. So it wasn't too hard for me to bring that into the sexual sphere. While it is scary for some, I was kind of more okay with it. It made it make more sense to me.

James Grady: So I'm interested in the jump. I think a lot of people have made the jump from maybe getting a massage for money on Grindr to being an escort ... which is not what you did. You went into dominatrixing. Did somebody asked you specifically to be dominant? Or is it just your personality and you kind of pushed it in that direction?

Garrett Kinsley: I mean, I started off very dom—I think it has a bit to do with my confidence level. It's just kind of easy for me to go with that. That's just a niche I felt most comfortable in... I think I kind of fell into it accidentally, but I found definitely the groove that I feel I'm most able to help others benefit from...

James Grady: So you fell into it accidentally, but then you raised your game to a whole ‘nother level. You actually threw yourself into it, leaned... So tell me a little bit about that journey to being a like a professional dominatrix.

Garrett Kinsley: It is kind of based on your city. It is a kind of like underground little society. I definitely think it takes a lot more dedication and preparation because. There's a lot of stuff behind the scenes that you don't see, like all the like the paperwork that I have to figure out and have people look at and sign so I'm not responsible for what they do and choose. I want my business to be very professional, and that's how people usually view me as... I really wanted my product to be something that makes the experience worth it...

James Grady: How do you educate yourself in the practices of a dominatrix?

Garrett Kinsley: I call her the headmistress, because she's the biggest dom that we have around here. She taught me; she kind of picked me up and showed me the ropes and all that kind of stuff. It was really cute, a little like a dominatrix mommy.

James Grady: So you know I know at one point you had a dungeon of your own. What 's that environment like and how did you develop that?

Garrett Kinsley: Well, I used to have one, and it was like near some boat dogs. It was cute and nice, but it was definitely like a four-by-four that was definitely sketchy going in and out of... So like people were into it, like, "Oh, this is hot. It's like an actual dungeon!" Yeah, it's hot, but it smells bad and there are some dead rats out there, but whatever. It's hot.

James Grady: Crazy! Literally down by the docks?

Garrett Kinsley: I know! That in it was a vibe. So yeah, it was kinda like a chainlink thing...

James Grady: What kind of what kind of equipment do you keep in the dungeon?

Garrett Kinsley: Oh, I mean, it kind of depends... I actually just have random sex toys and I literally just line them up and am like "What am I feeling today?" And then I see what happens! I do have like that nice utility wall to keep things organized.

Garrett Kinsley. Photo courtesy of Helix Studios, photographed by AJ Ford

James Grady: When somebody hires you to be a dom, what does the average session look like?

Garrett Kinsley: It looks like they need to figure out a way to explain the bill to their spouse or whatever it may be. Because I definitely have that issue!

I don't know... Usually the simple session goes ... like the consultation, someone will come in. I'll put a blindfold on them, so we can just talk about their sexual desires and them not like feel judged... I'll just do like an intake of what I feel like someone will benefit from. Obviously I'll tell you what I think, and then the next time we'll actually start a session. I do like to do a consultation because if I don't trust you and you don't trust me, like, we need to know that immediately.

James Grady: Do you have any red lines or hard limits?

Garrett Kinsley: My "no go" list is anything that involves putting down another race or religion or like promoting any kind of hate. One time I had a person who basically wanted me to dress up like Hitler. This person was like, "I'm like really into degrading!" And I was like, "Okay, I can do it. How do you like to be degraded?" And he was like, "Well, I'd like if you just acted like you were Hitler and came in and we were in the chamber..." And I was like, "No, that's not hot to me. I can't even think about that!" So I'm not gonna waver on that one and give that fantasy that I don't think should be given...

James Grady: I know there are some edgier things you do get into like blade play and breath play. Tell me about that.

Garrett Kinsley: Blade play, there is definitely a lot more safety involved, because there's a lot. I mean, the human body is interesting—just the depth that you cut someone affects how it can heal. I'm like, "Okay, cool. I'm learning about this stuff anyway ... let's get into and start cutting some things up!"

James Grady: What about breath play? How did you first get into that?

Garrett Kinsley: Breath play is something that's actually really interesting. And honestly, the only reason I really started doing it was because the girl who's teaching me the ropes told me no one ever does it anymore. And I was like, "Why not?" She was like, "They just don't." And I was like, "Can I? Why not? That sounds really hot!" And she was like, "Okay, cool. I'll teach you how to do it."

That's one of those things that it's an unsaid rule that if you've not been taught this properly, you shouldn't practice. If you haven't studied it, it's really dangerous. It's definitely something scary, trusting someone with your life and how much air you're taking in. So it's really important that the dom can trust the sub and the sub can trust the dom in this situation.

James Grady: So what kind of people do you tend to have approached you looking for your services?

Garrett Kinsley: I'm in Washington, DC. So some are like politically charged. I just won't say anything. I've definitely had some interesting people that I now know are like, "Okay, they're from the Republican Party. Well, they weren't screaming red last night!" But I have paperwork for them to sign that helps keep that anonymity for them.

James Grady: I guess they're type A personalities a lot of times, and I guess that's what they're what they're seeking from you is turning that table?

Garrett Kinsley: The idea of giving up and letting go and just having someone else be in the driver's seat for a second. The way I like explain it is ... you drive your car so much, and it's your car so you're so used to driving. But it probably feels really good to have someone else drive it, and you sit in the passenger seat. You're just giving up your safety and security to someone else and let them steer you in a different direction. Because you never know where you can go.

So most of my clients just like to have the control taken and be spanked around and tapped around a little bit. Some are really into degradation. Most people usually want feel like the sexual desire of just giving up... letting me play around, tickle them, and do all that kind of sensory work.

James Grady: How does the work impact your personal sex life?

Garrett Kinsley: My personal sex life is kinda really not there sometimes. But it really just depends. I'm thinking about my past week, and like one day I definitely had sex with four people. But the rest of the days, I didn't do anything. And nothing the week before...

I mean, I still have a normal sex life. But it doesn't ruin sex for me. So I don't think desensitizes  sex for me. I think it more or less makes me appreciate the intimate connection that sex is.

James Grady: So on a personal level, are you are you yourself into dom-sub play?

Garrett Kinsley: That's definitely something I'm into, on both sides... I play a pretty good switch. So it doesn't really matter to me ... I enjoy it either way, it's fun for me. It gives me like a little bit more to play with, which I always enjoy. I don't like things to be so static.

James Grady: How do you balance life, working as a dominatrix, and porn?

Garrett Kinsley: I mean, porn definitely gets in the way of my dominatrix work like I have. I had to stop for about three or six months just because I was just so busy. I wasn't able to do 18 hours of school a week and then shooting, and also see clients. like 40 hours a week.

Some of my clients were really upset at me when I was like trying to take a break. But I was like, "Listen, I'm being pulled every which way. There's only so much I can do!  Eventually I won't do it at all, sp get ready for that one eventually!" A lot of the people that I have as clients really enjoy me, though, so they'll sit there and wait for me to be ready.

But porn has gotten in the way of it a little bit, but not in a bad way to where I want to completely stop filming to focus on this. I quite enjoy the porn part. But I have more fun being my own boss as a little dominatrix. It's kind of like badass.

James Grady: So what do you enjoy about porn?

Garrett Kinsley: I enjoy the friends, the fun, the memories—just like ... the sexual liberation. How nice it feels to know that what I'm doing is helping others like figure out themselves. I wish we had representation like I never had. And it probably would have helped me out an ass-ton. I probably would have been so weird when I was a kid. Like, danger alert! He's gay. That's why he's so weird.

James Grady: So you’ve made friends in the industry… Who are some of the people you’ve gotten close to?

Garrett Kinsley: Well, I would say some of the closest I've grown to have been Dallas Preston... I love Dallas Preston. We kind of get along too well together: it's a little nerve wracking! Love Dallas!

I enjoy me some Travis Stevens. Travis Stevens and I definitely can go hard on a joke, and definitely drag that joke out until it's dead and battered and already has a gravestone written for it. I love Seth Peterson, too, and Austin Lovett.

I mean, it's really hard for me not to make a friend in general. It's hard for me to not get along with someone. And if I don't get along with someone, I feel like I'm a pretty okay judge of character.

James Grady: So have people started to recognize you from your work in your day-to-day life?

Garrett Kinsley: Yeah, I get recognized all the time. I go to this one bar here in D.C. see pretty much all the time. I mean, I was there last night and took pictures with like three fans.

James Grady: How about on campus? Did that have any impact on you at school?

Garrett Kinsley: Yeah, I mean, I remember one time I was on Grindr, and I was literally sitting in a tree reading or something, and this person said, "Wow, Garrett Kensley sitting in a tree! I should take a photo and sell it." And they sent it to me on Grindr, like a picture of me. I was like, "This is fucking weird!"

The other day, I went and got fries from McDonald's and got a DM on Twitter being like, "Yeah, I bet you like those fries, right?" People are weird. It's not too far off that I'll go to the Whole Foods, and I'll get a message saying, "I saw you there..." So it becomes more and more every day. Now. I'm realizing that I'm not sure how I feel about that.

James Grady: How did your family react when they found out about your work in industry?

Garrett Kinsley: My mother was kind of like ... well, I told her I was gay. and she had to get used to that. And I told her that I was a dominatrix. They were very much like, "Oh? Oh, okay..." So mom didn't really care too much. She was actually kind of into it. Because I introduced her to all the people, and she was like, "Oh, they're fun. They're normal people." And I was like, "Yeah, that's why I'm doing it! I never knew this many gay people my age until now...”

When she found out about the porn, honestly, she thought someone was trying to steal my identity. She's like, "Uh, you need to fix this!" I was like, "Yeah, no ... it's me." She was like, "Well, you did say you wanted to do this in high school. So I'm not too surprised." I even told my theater teacher back then I wanted to do it.

James Grady: What about your dad?

Garrett Kinsley: I actually didn't know that he knew until as of probably when I went home last. And he kind of just like, looked at me and was like, "I don't really care what you do, like as long as you live your life and do your thing, I'm happy with that." And then my mom told me two hours later that people literally DM dad on Facebook trying to expose me for being gay and all this stuff all the time. And I was like, Oh, shit. That makes a lot of sense. Why didn't I even think that people would be like that? I guess because I don't think like that at all...

James Grady: What should people consider before deciding whether porn or something they ought to be trying?

Garrett Kinsley: People need really sit down and look at themselves and really be like, "What am I doing this for? Why am I trying to do this? Is it because I need some money? Is it because I'm having some kind of sexual desires I would love to explore in a more healthy and safe way?"

Porn did that for me. Porn helped me get over my sex anxiety, which I was dealing with for a long time until I started doing porn. My first thing with Trevor was probably the first time I had sex in six months full out without ... well, not without crying. I did cry. But I made it.

People need to understand that it isn't the only option. Yes, it's really quick and easy. But a lot of people don't think about the effects that happen afterwards, like you might get super famous or you might be offered opportunities that would lead you down really dark paths. And you have to be able to navigate it all by yourself, because you are your own boss. It's definitely really hard to get into this industry and navigate it healthfully. So just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Make sure you aren't rushing into something you're going to regret for the rest of your life. That's definitely something that you have to think about!

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