Puberty - for boys
So, you wake up one day and you find to your horror and bemusement that your sheets are wet and you remember a dream that, frankly, was as far from being a nightmare as an amazing dream can possibly be - but at the same time you'd think twice about telling the first person you see that Monday morning, this being most likely your mother.
Pubescence is a strange thing. Well, it is if you're not sure what exactly is happening to your body, or why it is happening, beyond that familiar, somewhat uninformative phrase that you're 'growing up'.
Between the ages of (usually) about 13 to 18 the male body changes rather drastically. Let us say, it develops . The important thing to bear in mind is that it develops at different rates for every teenager. Some may not reach their full growth until 21, while others will be fully grown at 15 and will have started the process at 12 or 11 years old, or even younger. Don't panic: it varies.
What's the difference between 'pubescence' and 'adolescence'? The two terms are similar, but 'pubescence' is usually used to mean the changes that happen to your body, while 'adolescence' is the whole gamut of changes that take place - in how you dress, how you behave, how people see you and how you see them, for example - in the process of moving from childhood to adulthood.
And that's what this is about. The whole process is designed by nature to ensure that you eventually become a full bodied, functioning man who is capable of fathering babies or, in other words, being sexually mature. It begins when a part of your brain called the pituitary gland starts to release hormones which stimulate the relevant parts of the body and tell them to grow and change.
Pubic hair will start to grow around your penis. Body hair will also appear under your armpits and facial hair will start to develop, where eventually, unless you're growing a beard, you'll have to start shaving. The penis and testes - inside, to put it colloquially, your 'balls' - will enlarge over time and the testes themselves will start producing sperm. It is usual that one of the testicles will sit lower than the other - this is completely normal and may be nature's way of allowing you to run and walk without having to worry about them knocking against each other too much, which could be uncomfortable and damaging. The muscles around the body will begin to develop and become larger. It depends on your diet and the amount of exercise you do as to how quickly it happens, but the body becomes heavier and the hips and shoulders usually broaden.
The voice is another feature which usually changes fairly early on in pubescence. In the end, it will tend to become a lot deeper, but during the change, known by most as when the voice 'breaks', it will most likely jump around a bit at times, which can be quite embarrassing but is utterly normal. Singing teachers prefer to refer to the voice as 'changing' rather than breaking, as 'breaking' implies it won't work again after! The rate at which this happens again is different with everyone, but it's usually over the course of a year. Saying that, some boys have gone home one day and overnight have come back to school and shocked everyone by speaking a few octaves lower than the day before! This, though, is rare.
As if the physical changes weren't enough to deal with, your emotions and state of mind can also tend to become somewhat turbulent. You will most likely begin to think more about sex, or have sexual thoughts about different people. This is all fuelled by the hormone 'testosterone', which is what makes a man a man - and, by the by, fuels a girl's sex drive too. Girls have a different hormone called oestrogen, which controls their growth and development.
Girls, by the way, tend to develop a lot more quickly than boys and at an earlier age. They have different things to deal with and the habit of maturing faster. You might well find you go through a stage when all the possible girlfriends on offer are disconcertingly taller.
Behaviour is also affected during puberty - as feelings change and attitudes develop. It is normal to feel confused and rather 'trapped', or that you are not understood. Chances are you might well not be! One thing you're doing is learning to become independent of your parents, to take on your independent, adult identity. This can entail a bit of a struggle, and not a few arguments, and sometimes they'll be right! You might like to think of it as a process of negotiation - which in the end usually works out alright.
All this happens over varying amounts of time, unique to each person.
When and if you're ready:
You really must say you're a virgin the first time you have sex.
Go really slowly and gently, don't have overly high expectations - Meantime, enjoy your virginity and maybe explore