By Karen Hinton


A Memoir of Women, Men and Power

This is a compelling coming-of-age story, set both in small-town Mississippi and big-city New York, with a long layover in the nation’s capital. Karen Hinton chronicles her life from tiny Soso, Mississippi (pop. 408), to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where she played on the Lady Rebels basketball team, had embarrassing encounters with literary luminaries such as William Styron and Willie Morris, and received a degree in journalism . . . to stints at two newspapers, where she worked as a reporter—the Jackson Daily News and the Rocky Mountain News—to working on the political campaigns of two Black political candidates, one of whom was elected to Congress, thus becoming the first Black representative from Mississippi since Reconstruction.

Hinton went on to become one of the most colorful and outspoken political communications professionals in Washington and New York. Best known for her role as press secretary to both former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, Karen played what Politico dubbed the “Helen of Troy role” in the clash between the former Governor of New York and the Mayor that the New York Times called “one of America’s ugliest political feuds.” The Wall Street Journal has noted “the wisdom she dispensed in a Southern twang” in
dealing with the strutting and chest pounding of New York’s two most powerful leaders.

In 1995, Karen joined the Clinton Administration. During the time she worked as press secretary for Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, President Clinton began to face charges of womanizing (and worse). When Clinton’s defenders tried to dismiss the women as “trailer park trash” and “bimbos” Karen went public with her own story about Clinton asking for a night of sex when he was Governor of Arkansas and she was a young Democratic campaign aide in Mississippi. The revelation resulted in Karen being eased out of her senior administration position, one of the events which sparked her interest in giving a name to “penis politics.”

At the center of Hinton’s incredible rise to the pinnacle of success was an undercurrent of men behaving badly. The role that “penis politics” played in Hinton’s life began in childhood with a school employee who demanded sexual favors from her female classmates—and extended throughout her life as she bore witness to the struggles that she and her friends and colleagues have undergone to deal with sexual abuse, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.


A vivid, clear-eyed glimpse into American politics from a woman who grew up in the hinterlands of Mississippi and against all odds propelled herself into the rooms of power in Washington and New York City. Disarmingly honest, Hinton has invited us into her extraordinary life, from her complicated relationship with the Mississippi Delta of her youth, to the famous—too often, infamous—men she met along the way in her career in Democratic politics. Hinton’s first book is brimming with the steady perseverance, relentless ambition and maddening frustrations of a talented woman who found her way in a world dominated by men less talented than she. Now, it’s her turn to tell her story. And Hinton, a longtime keeper of secrets, spares no one.

Mara Gay, New York Times editorial board member and MSNBC political analyst


A coming-of-age story of working-class girls, growing up with the promise of Title IX and the reality of rape by male coaches. Hinton’s “coterie” navigates sexual liberation and traditional gender roles together. How they join forces to punish their perpetrator, despite the laws of Mississippi that still exist allowing adults to sexually abuse children, teaches Hinton the art of high-stakes negotiation … At last readers have a true-life version of “Stand By Me” for girls. With her first book, Penis Politics, Karen Hinton takes her seat at the table of exceptional Mississippi writers. This fellow Mississippian is damn proud of her.

Linda R. Monk, J.D., award-winning author of The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide


A wake-up call … compelling … Hinton is brave and generous in telling us not just about her work, but also about her life—coming of age in the Deep South and then learning to navigate the corridors of power in Washington and New York. Hinton is a masterful storyteller who has told an important, true story.

Ross Garber, government investigations and impeachment lawyer, and legal analyst for CNN and others


In a writing style reminiscent of Eudora Welty; author Karen Hinton unabashedly takes us on her sexual journey. Penis Politics is a memoir of an innocent girl from Soso, Mississippi, who learned way too early that male advances are more about dominance and less about sex. Throughout the memoir there is a common refrain: whether it’s the Head Coach in small-town Soso or a powerful Governor from Albany, it’s all still only about power and control. Hinton’s Penis Politics is principled, honest to a fault, and unafraid.

Mike Espy, was Mississippi’s first Black congressman since Reconstruction, a former cabinet secretary, and a former boss of Karen Hinton.


Penis Politics is hard-hitting and unrelenting. Hinton shows girls forced to learn Penis Politics from childhood. It is everywhere; it never stops; they never escape. Women’s lives and careers are determined by it. Slamming more than half the population, Penis Politics distorts every company, every organization. Worldwide … staggering losses in market share and economic growth. Hinton shows that it’s time for a reset.

Francis McInerney, author of six books on how to rebuild companies to compete on the Information-Velocity Curve


By sharing her experiences as a woman in the high-stakes world of politics, Karen Hinton offers readers a riveting account of how she managed to courageously navigate what she calls “the toxic brew of ego, entitlement, testosterone and bro-culture” that permeates corridors of power.

Betsy Fischer Martin, Executive Director, American University Women & Politics Institute, former executive producer of Meet the Press

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