Throughout puberty, boys will experience more frequent erections, when the penis becomes swollen with blood, making it longer and harder. This can often happen at all the worst times, such as when a boy is in a locker room with other boys, but this is totally normal and a poor indicator of sexual preference. In fact, anything remotely sexual or sex-related -- be it a girl or a boy -- can cause erections in pubescent boys.
Some boys may experience ejaculation of sperm in their sleep, known as wet dreams. These are totally normal occurrences and usually stop happening as a boy grows older. The only action needed is a little clean-up, especially if the boy is uncircumcised, to prevent infection from general lack of hygiene.
Male Puberty Hormones and What They Do
Although puberty can be humiliating, its actual purpose is to enable sexual reproduction. The process taking place inside a pubescent boy's body to bring about reproductive ability is quite complex. We'll learn the basics of it in this section.
At around age 9 or so, a boy's central nervous system sends out a message: "Change!" First, the hypothalamus releases GnRH. Because this hormone is present in the hypothalamus before puberty, it's believed that a protein named GPR54 helps get the GnRH out of the hypothalamus at the right time. When the GnRH reaches the pituitary gland -- a pea-sized gland located at the base of your brain -- the pituitary gland in turn produces two important hormones: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These two hormones also exist before puberty, but once the pituitary is triggered by the hypothalamus, these hormones are created in much greater quantities.
Early on in puberty, these hormones (which, along with hormones that trigger development of the testes, are known as gonadotropins) are produced only at night. In later stages of puberty, when growth is going gangbusters, these hormones are being produced around the clock and in greater and greater quantities.
FSH, when it reaches the testes, spurs the growth of seminiferous tubules, which are the channels in the testes in which sperm is produced. Once these tubules are formed and the infrastructure is in place, the body begins producing sperm.
LH, on the other hand, has a different function. It prompts cells within the testes called Leydig cells to produce androgens. Androgens are hormones that affect the development of a male's reproductive ability. Testosterone is the main androgen, though there are many others.
Between the time FSH and LH first reach the testes and the time a pubescent boy can successfully reproduce, the changes we discussed in the puberty stages section (growth of hair, changes in penis length and width) have taken place.
Next, we'll take a look at another scourge of adolescence: acne.