Sexuality - What happens to boys?
Pubescent boys can have a really hard time feeling like they fit in. That's because of the huge variation in the rate of development in boys. Two fourteen-year-old boys can look very different from one another physically. For instance, one fourteen-year-old boy can have lots of body hair, a deep voice, and be very tall, while his classmate might still be short, have no chest and other body hair, and still have a childlike voice. So why and how do boys change into men? The answer is in the hormones. Even in the womb, a male fetus contains small amounts of the "male" hormone—testosterone.
The male reproductive system has three parts: the testicles, scrotum, and penis. The testicles are where sperm cells are produced. At the start of puberty, the hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal glands signal to the testicles to begin producing testosterone, the most important male hormone. Testosterone triggers male secondary sex characteristics, like the deepening of the voice, thicker body hair, facial hair, and enlargement of the genital organs. The testicles look like two small eggs in a sac. This small sac of skin that hangs under the penis is called the scrotum. It's perfectly natural for one testicle to hang lower than the other. In fact, in 70 percent of men, the left hangs lower than the right. This has a very good biological purpose: if the two testicles hung at the same length, they would both get a lot of friction from the legs.
The Journey of the Sperm
The sperm cells are created in a series of chambers in the testicles. They grow and travel through the second part of the male reproductive system, which consists of the ducts for storage and transportation of sperm. The epididymis is a long, coiled canal that lies over each testicle. The next stop for the sperm is the vas deferens, a shorter extension of the epididymis. This takes the sperm from the scrotum to the abdominal cavity, passing to the back of the bladder and joining the seminal vesicles, and forming the ejaculatory duct where sperm is stored. The prostate gland lies against the bottom of the bladder and secretes the seminal fluid. Fluids from the seminal vesicles combine with this and carry the sperm out from the body. The prostate gland gets much bigger when males reach adolescence. (Taking care of the prostate gland by eating a healthy diet starting in adolescence can help prevent prostate problems that develop in many men later in life.) There are two tiny structures on either side of the urethra, called the cowper's glands, that produce a clear, sticky fluid that is thought to coat the urethra for passage of sperm. This is not seminal fluid, but it may contain sperm.
FEMALES ALSO PRODUCE SMALL AMOUNTS OF THE MALE HORMONE TESTOSTERONE. IT IS SOMETIMES CALLED THE LIBIDO HORMONE, MEANING THAT IT STIMULATES SEXUAL DESIRE.
THE TESTICLES PRODUCE ABOUT 200 MILLION SPERM CELLS A DAY.
The third part of the male reproductive system is the penis. During arousal, the penis gets solid and erect and may eventually release the seminal fluid. The fluid is called ejaculate. This final stage of arousal is called orgasm or ejaculation. There is usually about one teaspoon full of ejaculate emitted. Not all sexual excitement ends in orgasm, though. Sometimes the penis may become flaccid (soft) without having ejaculated after arousal. This is perfectly normal.
Facts about the Penis
There is a lot of folklore and misinformation about the penis. There are racial stereotypes about penis size and often an unspoken competition between boys about the size of their penises. Many young men are very concerned about having a large penis. They are worried that when they start having sex, their penis will be too small to please a woman sexually or that they will be made fun of by other men. Size of the penis is not the most important factor in terms of pleasurable intercourse for a woman. There are many other aspects of sex, such as caring feelings between the sex partners, that play a more important role than penis size.
Penises come in all shapes, sizes, and shades. Some boys have birthmarks on their penises, just like people have on other parts of their body. (If there is any mark on the penis that wasn't previously noticed or some mark has changed in size, color or texture, a physician should be consulted.) Some penises, while erect, point over to the left or right, and some point up.
The penis is actually made up of spongy tissue and large blood vessels. When males become sexually excited, the blood vessels expand and more blood flows to the penis, making it erect. Although the penis is hard at this time, the skin around it stays loose to allow for expansion during erection.
ERECTIONS. Males have erections all through their lives. Even babies can have erections. Erections can also accompany the urge to urinate, and are quite common upon waking from a night's sleep. In fact, erections can seem to happen for no reason at all. However, they also occur with sexual stimulation, or when a person is sexually aroused.
NOCTURNAL EMISSIONS. Sometimes males will wake up after having ejaculated during their sleep. This is called a nocturnal emission, or the slang term "wet dream," and it is a natural occurrence. Wet dreams usually start during puberty and can happen throughout a man's life. While having a wet dream may cause a boy to feel embarrassment, it is a normal occurrence and happens to most males at some time or another.
The Stages of Development: Boys
As stated earlier, all boys have different rates of maturation. Puberty can start as early as age eight and end as late as fifteen. Boys should not be nervous if their friends start changing before they do, or if they themselves are the first to start changing. There is no rhyme or reason to development; the body develops as it is genetically programmed to do so. What, then, happens to the male body at puberty? According to The New Teenage Body Book, British physician Dr. J. M. Tanner identified the stages of puberty for boys as follows:
- Stage One: (approximately between ages nine and twelve)
No visible signs of development occur, but, internally, male hormones become a lot more active. Sometimes a growth spurt will begin at this time.
- Stage Two: (approximately between ages nine to fifteen)
Height will increase and the shape of the body will change. Muscle tissue and fat are developing at this time. The aureole, the dark skin around the nipple, will darken and increase in size. The testicles and scrotum will grow, but the penis probably won't. A little bit of pubic hair will begin to grow at the base of the penis.
- Stage Three: (approximately between ages eleven and sixteen)
The penis will finally start to grow during this stage. It will tend to grow in length rather than width. Pubic hair is getting darker and coarser and spreading to where the legs meet the torso. Also, boys will continue to grow in height, and even their faces will begin to appear more mature looking. The shoulders will broaden, making the hips look smaller. Muscle tissue increases and the voice will start to change and deepen. (This is because the larynx is enlarging.) Finally, facial hair will begin to develop on the upper lip.
- Stage Four: (approximately eleven to seventeen)
At this time, the penis starts to grow in width, too. The testicles and scrotum are also continuing to grow. Boys shouldn't be alarmed if hair begins to grow on the anus; this is perfectly normal. The texture of the penis is beginning to look more adult. Underarm and facial hair increases as well. Skin will get oilier, and the voice will continue to deepen.
- Stage Five: (approximately fourteen to eighteen)
Boys will be reaching their full adult height. Pubic hair and the genitals will look like an adult man's would. At this point, too, shaving may become a necessity. Some young men continue to grow past this point, even into their twenties.
Most important to remember in understanding the stages of development is that everyone has their own, individual pace. Age may vary from the approximate ages in each stage. There's no reason to worry. Inevitably, virtually everyone develops into an adult in due time.