Last year I published a book for girls about their experiences with puberty and getting their periods (The Day Aunt Flo Comes To Visit: An Honest Conversation about Getting Your Period). In my research, I found that many girls are nervous as puberty approaches and the majority want more information. After I completed this study I began to wonder if boys had similar experiences with puberty.
The hallmark event of male puberty is a noctural emission, or wet dream. The majority of boys experience a wet dream at some point, although my research has revealed that few remember the event. There are exceptions – take the one young man who told me that his first wet dream occurred while he was sleeping in the car on a long family trip to Florida. It’s no surprise he has a clear memory of this event since it was utterly embarassing for him (not only were his older sisters sitting next to him in the car, but he also had to ask his parents to stop so he could clean up). If you’re a guy, I’m curious about your memories of your first wet dream? Do you remember? Were you prepared for the event? Did you tell anyone?
Some other interesting findings from my research:
- many boys feel unprepared for the changes that will occur during puberty;
- but few are nervous about the inpending changes;
- boys who reach puberty earlier than their friends feel empowered (interesting to compare this to early-maturing girls who often feel embarrassed and experience a significant dip in self-esteem);
- during puberty the first change most boys experience is an increase in body hair and unwanted erections (both of which caused high levels of embarrassment);
- voice cracking was another common event for boys during puberty;
- many boys laugh off the unwanted erections and voice cracking – some even calling attention to the erections in middle and high school;
- wet dreams were common and typically the first one occurs around the age of 13;
- most boys believe the first wet dream involves urine, at least initially;
- most boys feel unprepared for their first wet dream, which typically occurs before they expect it to.
Research has found that the majority of family communication about puberty and sexuality occurs between mothers and daughters. Parents are more likely to talk to their daughters, rather than their sons, about these issues. Society typically expects boys to figure it out on their own. In fact, the two most popular sources of information for boys are friends and school. When boys are asked what they would prefer their main source of information to be – they say their parents.
The bottom line? Boys need and want to know what’s happening to their bodies (and they’d like to know more about what’s happening in girl’s bodis as well….). It’s time for us to start giving them the information they need.