Growing Up Male

2011/06/12 in Health

So many new and different things happen to a boy’s body between 12 and 18 that it’s often a confusing and awkward time for guys. One way to deal with all these changes is to understand what’s happening and why.


If you’re around 12 or 13, you may be getting worried because the girls your age are growing fast – and you’re not. Although it can sometimes be embarrassing, it’s nothing to worry about. Most girls start growing taller and heavier at about age 12; most guys don’t start growing in height and weight until they’re around 14. However, once the boys start, they keep growing and pass up most of the girls. Most guys will reach their full adult size between the ages of about 16 and 19.

While you’re growing up, you’re also growing out. Muscles will develop, your shoulders and chest will widen. If you feel OK with the rate at which this is happening, great. However, you may be worried because you’re filling out faster than anybody else, or still looking like a kid when the other guys are starting to look like men. Try to remember that everybody’s body develops at its own special rate. In most cases, you’ll either catch up with the others, or they’ll catch up with you.

Another sign that a boy’s body is beginning to mature physically and sexually is the gradual appearance of the pubic, facial, underarm and body hair. This is totally natural and nothing to be embarrassed about.

Another perfectly normal sign is when your voice starts to squeak or crack. It may be embarrassing now, but eventually your voice will become deeper, more powerful, and more pleasant sounding.

When a boy is about 12 or 13, he’ll have his first ejaculation, when fluid called semen is released from the penis in spurts. Ejaculation often occurs for the first time while you’re sleeping in what’s called a wet dream. When this happens, you may not know until you find a sticky, whitish colored stain on your sheets, pajamas or shorts. Your first ejaculation could also happen while masturbating, which is when you stimulate your penis until it gets hard and ejaculation occurs.

Let’s talk for a minute about why an ejaculation happens. Chemical substances called hormones produced by the pituitary gland in your brain are responsible for the physical growth in several of the sex organs, among them the penis and the testes, which some guys refer to as balls or nuts. Both the penis and testes start getting larger at about age 12, grow quickly between the ages of 14 and 16, and usually taper off in growth at about 17 years of age.

These hormones are also responsible for some changes you can’t see. One of these is the growth of sperm inside the testes. Sperm are the male sex cells which are the counterpart to the female sex cells a woman produces called eggs. When the two are united in intercourse, they grow to become a baby. At about the age of 13, sometimes earlier, many sperm have grown inside the testes, and are ready to be released. Thus, your first ejaculation usually occurs during a wet dream, or through masturbation.

No matter how you experience your first ejaculation, it’s your body’s way of letting you know you’re starting to mature sexually. It’s perfectly normal and natural. It’s also a sign that you’re physically able to father children. This is important so we’ll repeat it: from your first ejaculation on, if you have sexual intercourse with a girl, she could become pregnant.

Now, we’d like to talk about two things that often unnecessarily worry and embarrass a lot of guys.

One is problems with erections, which most guys call hard-ons. Erections happen when the tissue in your penis fill with blood and it becomes longer, thicker, harder, and stands up and away from your body. There you are, in front of a class or out on a date, and before you know it, your penis gets hard and large and you’re embarrassed because the bulge in your pants. Remember, although you know what’s happening, other people probably don’t, unless you let on. As you get older, you’ll get more control over your feelings and emotions, and this won’t embarrass you as much.

The second issue for some boys is the shape and size of their penises. It may look smaller than other guys’ or angle off to one side. Remember, penis size and shape has nothing to do with manliness. A small or differently shaped penis gives as much sexual satisfaction as any other. If you’re worried right now about what the guys in the locker room think, it may help to remember that a limp penis has nothing to do with what it looks like when it’s erect. Absolutely nothing. If you’re worried that you’re smaller than other guys, you should also know that the size of fully erect penises doesn’t differ much among men.

Some of the changes we’ve just discussed can be exciting but challenging to cope with. Remember, this maturing process is perfectly normal and natural, and nothing to be worried or ashamed about; every boy goes through these changes on his way to becoming a man.

It might also help if you talked about some of these changes with your parents or an adult you’re comfortable with. You could also have your parents call this message. It just might help you talk together about the changes you’re going through right now. Thanks for calling.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)


Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.