Puberty for People with Penises
What is puberty?
Puberty is when your body grows into an adult body. Adult bodies not only look different, but can reproduce (create a baby). These changes are controlled by hormones. Hormones are chemicals that send messages to different parts of your body.
Lots of physical, emotional, mental and social changes happen during puberty. These changes may feel exciting, weird or scary—or even all at once! That’s completely normal. It can also be hard to start puberty before or after your friends. Talk to a parent, family member or other adult you trust about what you’re feeling.
Puberty can be a bit different for everyone. If you’re not sure if something is normal, talk to your doctor or health care provider, or a parent or other family member.
It’s good to understand your own body so you can respect and take care of it! It’s also important to learn about the development of others who many not have the same experiences as you (i.e. those with a different gender assigned at birth).
You may notice we use slightly different language when we talk about “boys” and “girls.” Instead of saying “boys,” we often say “assigned male at birth” or “people with a penis.” Instead of saying “girls,” we often say “assigned female at birth” or “people with a vagina.” This is because not everyone identifies as the gender they were raised as. To learn more about gender identity and what it means to be transgender, click here.
Puberty can be an especially challenging and confusing time if you’re transgender or not sure about your gender identity. Remember: you are not alone. We talk more about being transgender and how to find support here.
If you have a penis, puberty usually starts when you’re 9-15 years old.
Different people develop at different rates. It’s normal if some people in your class look much older, and others look much younger. There’s nothing better or worse about starting puberty earlier or later.
Puberty starts when your brain releases a hormone that sends a signal to your testes. (Your testes are sometimes called your testicles, or balls). This signal tells the testes to start making a hormone called testosterone. It also tells your testes to start making sperm. Sperm are necessary to start a pregnancy.
During puberty, people with penises:
Grow hair in new places
Have a growth spurt
Sweat and smell more
May have wet dreams
You’ll grow new hair under your arms, on your genitals and later on your face and chest. Usually the new hair will start out light, but grow darker and thicker over time.
Whether to remove some or all of your new hair is completely up to you. There is no medical reason to remove it. Some people like the way their hair looks and feels. Others don’t.
When you begin to grow hair on your face, you will probably want to shave or trim it. Before you shave, talk to your parent or caregiver first. They can give you tips on how to do it safely. Make sure you:
- Use your own razor.
- Use a fresh razor.
- When possible, shave in the shower. This softens your skin.
- Use shaving cream.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth. This reduces the chance you’ll get painful ingrown hairs.
Removing your pubic hair is especially tricky. The skin is more sensitive than other areas and it is easy for infections to spread there. Just like other hair, there is no medical reason to remove your pubic hair.
This means you grow a lot taller in a short amount of time. How much you grow depends on your genetics, what you eat, and so much more. You may notice that you outgrow your clothes quickly. Your feet will also grow.
This means you’ll probably gain weight. This is normal and healthy. If you’re worried about how much you weigh, talk to your health care provider.
Your shoulders will grow wider and you’ll grow more muscle. You may notice that your breasts get a bit bigger, too. Don’t worry—this is normal, and it will go away by the end of puberty.
Your genitals will also change. Your penis will grow larger and longer, and your testes will get bigger.
Your voice will get deeper. Sometimes, your voice might “crack.” This is when it very briefly goes back to being higher-pitched. This is very normal and common.
During puberty, your sweat glands become more active. Combined with bacteria and hormones, this means you might start smelling more than you used to, especially under your arms. To stay fresh, take a shower every day, and after you exercise. In addition, use deodorant and/or antiperspirant. Deodorant helps block the smell of your sweat, while antiperspirant makes you sweat less. There are also combination deodorants and antiperspirants, which do both. It may take a few tries to find a kind that works for you. If you’re still self-conscious about how you smell or how much you sweat, talk to your doctor or health care provider.
You may start to get acne (also called pimples or zits). During puberty, your body starts to produce more androgen. Androgen is a chemical that makes your skin make more oil. Sometimes, hair follicles get plugged by this oil and dead skin cells. Bacteria can grow there, and can create an infection. This infection creates inflammation. This inflammation is a pimple.
While acne is common on your face, you can also get acne on your back, chest and other parts of your body. It may be hard, but try to not pick at your acne! That will just make it worse and could potentially cause scarring. To help, wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day. You can also use over the counter anti-acne creams and gels. Look for ones with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Be sure to follow the directions carefully.
If your acne is deep and painful, severe, or affects how you feel about yourself, talk to your doctor. They can prescribe different medications that can help.
An erection is when your penis fills with blood and becomes stiff, or hard. This can happen when you’re thinking about sex or become aroused (or turned on). It can also happen for no reason at all. Getting random erections is very common during puberty. It does not necessarily mean that you’re turned on. Over time, these random erections will stop.
You might sometimes wake up with an erection. This is sometimes called “morning wood,” and it’s very normal.
Wet dreams are sometimes called nocturnal emissions, or sleep orgasms. This is when you have an orgasm while you’re asleep. You may wake up while having an orgasm or right after. Sometimes, you may not notice until the next morning. You’ll probably notice that your underwear or sheets are sticky or wet. This is from semen (sometimes called ejaculate, or come/cum). You can toss your underwear or sheets in the wash to keep them clean.
Sometimes, wet dreams happen when you have a dream about sex or something that turned you on. You may not be able to remember the dream. Other times, wet dreams aren’t related to dreams at all. They might be random or caused by friction as you move around in your sleep.
Wet dreams are completely normal, and nothing to feel embarrassed about. Many people find that their wet dreams go away or happen less when they begin to masturbate (or touch themselves for sexual pleasure) or have partnered sex. It’s also completely normal to not have wet dreams!
Wet dreams are more obvious for people with penises because they ejaculate. However, many people with vaginas have them too.
Your body isn’t the only thing that changes during puberty. You’ll also begin to experience new feelings and emotions.
Some people feel self-conscious about their changing body. This is normal. If you feel anxious or bad about your body, learn more about healthy body image.
All the hormones running through your body can cause mood swings. This means you may be in a good mood and then suddenly become angry, irritated or sad for no reason. Dealing with mood swings can be tough. Learn more about how to deal with your emotions.
You may begin to have crushes on (or have romantic feelings for) people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you want or are ready for a relationship. It’s ok to enjoy the feeling of liking someone without acting on it! If you decide you do want to date, make sure you understand what a healthy relationship looks like.
You might also begin to think about sex and have sexual feelings. It’s normal and ok to think about sex, and to have questions about it. Some people (but not everyone!) begin to masturbate (or touch themselves for sexual pleasure) during puberty. Learn more about sex and sexuality.
Your interests, values and friendships might change as well. This is a normal part of becoming more independent and getting to know yourself.
Dealing with all of these changes can be tough. If you ever feel confused or overwhelmed, talk to someone you trust. You’re not alone.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.