penis; genitals; genitalia; testes; testicles; glans; circumcision; scrotum; groin; masturbate; masturbation; erection; sperm; wet dream; ejaculation;
Whatever you may have called them when you were a little kid in your family or among your mates, your 'privates' (genitals) have other names used by doctors and other health professionals.
The scrotum is the name for the sac that hangs below the penis, and inside this sac are the testicles (sometimes called testes).
- There are two testicles and they produce hormones and sperm. When a male reaches puberty they become larger and step up the production of the hormones, including testosterone.
- The testicles need to be cooler than your body temperature in order to produce the best sperm, so they usually hang in the scrotum, outside of the rest of the body. When it is really cold (for example when you go for a swim in cold water) your scrotum shrinks and your testes move up tight against your body to keep them warm enough. When it's hot, the testes move down and the scrotum becomes looser and floppy, so that the testes can stay a bit cooler than the rest of your body.
- Testicles are often slightly different sizes.
The penis has two parts, the shaft, which is the main part and the glans, which is the tip.
- The small opening in the glans is where semen and urine come out, but not at the same time!
- Inside the shaft of the penis is spongy tissue that can enlarge and become firm, and go soft and smaller again. Doctors call this 'erectile tissue' as changes in this tissue cause an erection.
- Whatever size the penis is when resting (flaccid), this spongy tissue can expand quite a bit when a man is sexually aroused, so that the erect penis of an adult reaches an average length of around 15cm. Actually, some penises enlarge more than others to achieve this size.
Every baby boy is born with a fold of skin, called the foreskin, which covers the end of the glans. Sometimes this skin is surgically removed by a doctor or a religious leader - this is called circumcision and it is done for many reasons.
- It may be traditional for that family to have all boys circumcised.
- It may be for religious reasons.
- It may be for other cultural reasons.
- It may be that some people think it is easier for boys to keep the penis clean if the foreskin is removed.
- Sometimes there may be a medical reason for circumcision.
- For little babies, the operation may be done by a doctor when the boy is under 10 days old. The operation hurts, and there is a risk of bleeding or damage to the penis, so most doctors recommend that it is not done nowadays.
- Sometimes older boys and men need a circumcision. They will be given an anaesthetic when it is done so they will not feel pain.
Whether the penis is circumcised or not, it will work and feel just the same. If you want to know more about circumcision, there is a topic about it on the Parenting and Child Health section of this site (See 'Related topics' at the top of this page).
Even tiny babies sometimes get an erection (when the penis grows bigger and stands up, becoming 'erect'), but around the time of puberty, boys start getting more erections, sometimes without any obvious cause.
- They may happen when you are embarrassed, and they may cause you to feel embarrassed because you think that everyone can see it.
- Sometimes they happen when you feel sexy, maybe when you think about someone you might be sexually attracted to.
- These erections go away after a short period of time. You do not have to do anything about them.
- Having an erection which goes away by itself does not cause any harm to you.
- Thinking about something really boring like trying to remember historical dates or reciting the alphabet backwards might help to get the erection down again.
People do not usually watch other people closely, and no one is likely to notice that you have an erection.
Around the time of puberty, most young males start having 'wet dreams'. During their sleep they get an erection and then ejaculate (e-jack-u-late). An ejaculation is when sperm and the fluid in which sperm live come out of the penis.
You may find a wet spot on your pyjamas and on your sheets. This is not urine. You have not wet the bed. You have done nothing wrong. This is a normal thing to happen and there is no need to feel embarrassed about it.
Rubbing your penis until you have an ejaculation is called masturbation.
It is natural for boys going through puberty to become more aware of their feelings and their bodies.
- Masturbation does not cause any harm to your body.
- It is something that is done in private - after all, it is a very private place we're talking about here!
- It's OK to talk about this stuff with other males your age - but be aware that they may not have all the right information, so if you have any concerns, have a chat to your doctor or one of your parents or carers.
Because the genital area is so sensitive, it is important that young males learn to look after it.
- Keep the genital area clean by washing carefully every day.
- If you are not circumcised, pull back the foreskin and wash gently. There is no need to scrub and definitely no need to spray any deodorant on there. Ooh! That could be painful and stinging, so don't try it!
- Checking with your doctor if you are swollen, sore or you get a stinging feeling when you pass urine.
- Wear a box if you are playing some ball games such as cricket and baseball. It really hurts if you get hit down there!
This area of the body has lots of nerve endings, which make it very sensitive. As there are no protecting bones around it, there is also a risk of sensitive parts getting injured.
You can't walk around all the time wearing a 'box' or athletic 'cup' as it is sometimes called. So, yes, you may get hit there - and getting a blow to the testes can be really painful!
- You may feel really sick, and even throw up!
- Most times it will be painful for a while, and then will feel better.
You need to talk to a doctor if:
- the pain is really bad
- it is still really hurting after about an hour
- the scrotum is swollen, bruised or cut.
- you are still feeling like throwing up ages after.
An injury to the penis and scrotum rarely causes any lasting damage… but it certainly can hurt.
- Sometimes a young man may get pain in the scrotum or testicles and he hasn't been hit there.
- Sometimes he may feel really itchy around there.
- Sometimes it may hurt when he is 'doing a wee'.
- Sometimes one testicle seems bigger than the other.
- Sometimes one testicle is harder than the other.
- Sometimes one or both testicles seem to disappear!
If any of these things is happening to you, get checked out by the doctor. Everyone feels a bit embarrassed at times, especially when showing their 'private parts'. But doctors are there to help you and they are used to checking the private parts of people who see them. Worrying about something and not getting any help is not smart, and can lead to problems getting worse.
Nowadays there is so much information around, especially about the worst kind of health problems, and you may feel too scared to ask questions and just worry about all the worst things that could happen.
Even if there is a remote chance of something being really wrong, it is best to check things out sooner rather than later.
All babies, boys as well as girls, can have a swelling under their nipples when they are born. This goes away until, for girls, they reach puberty and start developing breasts.
Sometimes boys appear to be developing breasts when they reach puberty too. Our topic on Gynecomastia (male breasts) will tell you more about this.
Be aware that unless a male is very overweight, it is highly unlikely that any swelling under the nipple will stay for long.
a sexual relationship
Whether you are sexually attracted to females or males, there are some things to be taken into consideration before starting a sexual relationship.
- Are you mentally as well as physically ready for such an intimate relationship?
- Do you know about practising safe sex?
- Are you aware that the age of consent in Australia is 17.
Many young people nowadays choose to remain celibate (ie. not have sex) until they feel that they are ready to enter into a long-term relationship.
You have the right to decide what to do with your life and your body. Bragging about exploits in the change rooms is often just a lot of hot air! When the testosterone is flying, often the imagination can be flying too. Make your own choices and keep your 'private' life private!
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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.