From boy to man

If you're in your teens, you may feel as if you don’t know your body anymore and you don’t know what to expect from one day to the next.

Every now and then you could feel embarrassed and confused, such as when you get an erection when you are among other people or your voice starts squeaking, but remind yourself that puberty happens to everybody and it is quite normal. And everyone feels embarrassed from time to time.

So what is happening to you?
You will grow taller, usually starting around age 14. Sometimes your arms and your legs will grow a bit faster than the rest of your body, making you feel quite clumsy and as if you are not in full control of all your limbs. But this will pass, because the rest of your body will catch up quite soon.

Your body hair
You might start getting hair in all sorts of places, in which you didn’t have hair before, like your face, under your arms and above and around the base of your penis. Hair on the rest of your body will also grow thicker. Most boys remove the hair on their faces with a safety razor, and in the beginning, as the hair is still quite soft and not very thick, once a week is often enough.

Your voice
You will begin to sound different. The reason for this is that male hormones are making your larynx (what feels like a bone in the front of your throat) grow longer. This can sometimes be quite embarrassing, because for a few weeks your voice could squeak and roar all in the same sentence. Fortunately this does not last long, and rest assured that all boys go through this. It is not just you.

Your penis
Your penis will start to grow larger and your testicles will hang lower, because they are growing bigger. This, like all other changes in puberty, is caused by the sex hormone testosterone. You will start to get regular erections, when your penis fills with blood and will grow stiff and hard. When not erect, most men’s penises are in the region of 7cm long, and when erect, vary in size between about 10 – 17 cm. The average length of an erect penis is about 14cm. The length of your penis is no reflection on how manly you are. It is normal to think about sex a lot during your puberty and also to get lots of erections. A strong sex drive in people and the fact that having sex is pleasant, are ways in which nature makes sure that species, including people, will continue to procreate.

Most of the changes to your body are easily visible, unlike in the case of girls, where many changes cannot easily be seen, because the larger part of their sexual organs are inside their bodies. The changes listed above are all caused by your body’s production of testosterone, which also sets your sperm production in motion.

Once this process has started, you could start ejaculating when you are sexually excited and have an erection. The sticky liquid that comes out of your penis when this happens, is called semen and can cause a girl to become pregnant if you ejaculate inside or near her vagina. Most boys start ejaculating from about age 13 or 14. Masturbation, or playing with yourself, is completely normal and you're certainly not the only one doing it. It is also a way of relieving sexual tension, which can build up to high levels in the first few years of puberty. Furthermore, while the thought might be very attractive, getting a sexual partner when you are still in your teens, is not the wisest thing to do, as few young boys and girls are emotionally ready for the commitment and responsibility that sexual relationships bring with them. (Think HIV/Aids and think pregnancy) It is normal to ejaculate regularly at this age and happens easily, quickly and to just about everyone. Erections can sometimes disappear even if you don’t ejaculate.

Sometimes they can even happen while you are sleeping and having a sexy dream. This is called a wet dream, because the sperm will make a patch of your pajamas or your bed a bit wet and sticky. This happens to most teenage boys and if you feel embarrassed about it, you should clean it up yourself.

If you're finding all these changes a bit much, be sure there are lots of others who feel the same way. It could take a while, but your body will feel like your own again not too long from now.

(Health24, updated June 2010)

Read more:

Male puberty milestones

This slideshow shows the transition from boy to man

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