Puberty and the male body
Puberty is a time of major change for all young people, both physically and mentally. People with male bodies may experience new things like a deeper voice, erections and more. It’s good to have an idea about what to expect during puberty.
Throughout this article, Kids Help Phone uses the terms “male body” and “people with male bodies” to refer to people who are born with male sex organs, hormones and chromosomes. However, it’s important to note that people with biologically male bodies may have a different gender identity than the sex assigned to them at birth. Not everyone who is born with male sex organs identifies as male, and that’s OK.
A typical male reproductive system includes:
- a prostate gland (a gland that makes some of the fluid found in semen)
- seminal vesicles (tubes that make some of the fluid found in semen)
- the vas deferens and epididymis (tubes that store and transfer sperm)
- testes (two external, similarly sized sacs that produce and store sperm)
- a penis (an external organ that releases semen and urine)
Puberty usually starts between the ages of nine and 14 and lasts up to four years.
Around this time, you may begin to notice changes to the way you look and feel. This may mean you’re starting puberty.
At the start of puberty, part of your brain (the pituitary gland) releases hormones, which tell the testes (also called testicles or balls) to start producing another hormone called testosterone. This hormone initiates more changes throughout the mind and body.
The first signs of puberty happen gradually and are usually visible. You may:
- develop muscles
- grow taller/broader (also called growth spurts)
- develop a larger larynx (also called an Adam’s apple)
- have a deeper voice (which may lead to the voice “breaking” at first)
- gain weight
- develop larger testes
During and after puberty, you may also experience the following:
- Hair growth: you may notice an increase/darkening/thickening of body and facial hair during puberty. Hair growth commonly occurs on the face, under the arms, on the chest, on the legs and around the pubic area.
- Pimples: during puberty, the body produces extra oil, which can clog the skin’s pores. This buildup of oil and bacteria can cause small, pus-filled bumps known as pimples, zits or acne. Pimples commonly appear on the face, back and chest. Try not to squeeze, pop or pick at pimples — this can cause scarring, spread bacteria or cause an infection.
- Sweat: during puberty, sweat glands become more active to help regulate the body’s temperature. You may notice that you’re sweating more than you used to. The sweat your body produces may also mix with bacteria and give off an odour.
- Sexual arousal: as the body goes through puberty and matures, it becomes ready for sexual activity. Around this time, you may start to have sexual thoughts, feel sexual urges and/or experience new sexual sensations. During sexual arousal, the penis swells with blood and becomes erect (hard). Eventually, the penis releases semen (a thick, white fluid containing sperm) during a process called ejaculation. When you ejaculate, you may experience an orgasm — a pleasurable feeling in your body — at the peak of sexual arousal. You may experience sexual arousal at any time, including while you’re asleep. Ejaculating while you’re asleep is known as nocturnal emissions (also called wet dreams).
- Mood changes: during puberty, the body’s hormones are fluctuating. You may begin to experience more emotional highs and lows. Puberty is also a time when mental disorders may first present themselves. If you notice a big change in your mood, thoughts or actions, it’s important to talk to a friend or a safe adult such as a doctor, counsellor, school nurse or social worker.
- Relationship changes: it’s common for relationships to change as you grow up. You may begin to notice shifts in your relationships with family, friends and peers as your mind and body mature. You may also start to feel sexually attracted to other people. Your relationship with yourself (e.g. your body image and self-esteem) may also transform during puberty as you learn more about who you are.
If you have any questions or concerns about puberty, it’s important to talk to a doctor or other safe adult. You can always call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.