Learn About Sexuality

At puberty boys develop a reliable arousal cycle

The proper name for a boy’s willy is ‘penis’. There are many other slang words for the penis including ‘cock’, ‘dick’ and ‘prick’. Little boys have a small penis and testicles. These increase in size at adolescence. The size of the male genitals also increases as a man ages or puts on weight.

At puberty boys start to have erections. An erection causes the penis to become highly sensitised and pleasurable to touch. Instead of being fairly soft (flaccid or limp), the penis becomes very firm (stiff or hard) and juts out from the body at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. The average position for all ages is slightly above the horizontal. Around 15-20% carry the penis at 45⁰ above the horizontal while 8-10% of men have an erection tight against the body.

There are many slang words for an erection including a ‘stiffy’, ‘hard-on’ or ‘boner’. Boys can have erections as early as 8 or 9. A younger male can hold an erection for longer and at an angle tighter to the body on average than an older male. But these specifics vary among men.

An adolescent boy may have a discharge from his penis that can accumulate and cause infection if not cleaned. A boy needs to pull back his foreskin and clean his penis regularly with soap and water. Mothers have to learn to do this for young boys until they can do it for themselves. Circumcision helps to avoid infections and involves cutting the thin piece of skin that attaches the sheath of the penis to the glans. Circumcised men may have different sensations from intercourse.

Some boys experience spontaneous orgasms usually as a one-off or random phenomenon in pre-adolescence. Sensations of fear, apprehension, shock or surprise all give rise to nervous system responses that have characteristics in common with arousal. Some young boys initially orgasm in response to many of these kind of stimuli. Commonly these early orgasms are not accompanied by ejaculation.

Half of all boys may have had an orgasm by the age of 7 and two-thirds of them by the age of 12. But until they start ejaculating, such orgasms are one-offs or sporadic. Over time adolescent boys come to associate their arousal with psychological stimuli (erotic turn-ons) that are explicitly sexual. They also become increasingly reliant on specific penile stimulation for orgasm.

Some boys (but not all) ejaculate when they are asleep. These are called wet dreams because of the semen that mark the sheets. But the most common source of first ejaculation is masturbation. The sources of first ejaculation are masturbation (two-thirds), nocturnal emissions (in an eight of the cases), intercourse (one boy in eight) and homosexual contacts (one boy in twenty). A few boys (0.81%) experience ‘spontaneous ejaculation’.

Both masturbation and sex dreams depend on a person’s use of creative imagination either by remembering or embellishing an experience with a real-life lover. ‘Wet dreams’ are most common (71% of men) between 21 and 25 when the highest average frequency is about once in three weeks (0.3 per week). By the age of 50 only a third of men have sex dreams, which do not average more than four or five a year.

Ejaculation (of semen) and male orgasm are two separate phenomena. It is possible for a young boy to orgasm without ejaculating. But once a boy reaches adolescence (assumed to coincide with a boy’s first ejaculation) he most normally ejaculates every time he has an orgasm. Most boys (90%) ejaculate for the first time between the ages of 11 and 15. The start of adolescence is defined by the age that a boy first ejaculates.

Boys and men have an arousal cycle that starts with erection and ends with ejaculation. Women do not experience the same phenomenon, which is why they also do not suffer sexual frustration (in a genital sense). Some boys and young men can be aroused and become erect many times through the day in their younger years. This does not cause a particular problem (except possible embarrassment) until a man has experience of penetrative sex. Once he is no longer a virgin, men may find that continual sexual excitement produces an intense sense of frustration that the opportunity to ejaculate through thrusting (penetrative sex) is not available.

At puberty a boy’s mind is naturally focused on his penis and its responsiveness. Boys start to discuss girls’ bodies and female sexual attributes from adolescence onwards. Boys do not usually spend much time imagining the social context of having a wife and children. Women have the protection and emotional support of society, other women and family. Men do not have the same emotional security blanket. This is in part why sex is so important to men.

Erection … is practically a daily matter for all small boys, from earliest infancy … Slight physical stimulation of the genitalia, general body tensions and generalized emotional situations bring immediate erection, even when there is no specifically sexual situation involved. (Alfred Kinsey 1948)

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