Puberty means the age at which the boy matures; he be-comes adolescent. It usually occurs between 12 and 14 years of age, and is accompanied by certain physical and mental changes, and by certain inner feelings, which he may not understand.
At this critical age, hair begins to grow over the pubic bone, just above the penis, and also on his chest and under his arms. His voice changes, becoming deeper as the vocal cords lengthen. His penis and testicles become larger, and strange sensations may be felt within them. His sperm-cells are ma-tured, and he is capable of becoming a father. At the same time, he becomes conscious of the differencesbetween the sexes, and may be shy and backward in the presence of girls whereas before, he played games with them almost as he would with other boys. Sexual desire will begin to manifest itself though this may be entirely unconscious at first. In boys, these feelings are far more localized than they are in girls at this age.
All these changes are natural; the only problem arising at this time, as a rule, is that of masturbation which we shall come to presently. This period of adolescence, in the boy’s life, is a difficult one since a number of years must elapse before he becomes an adult, able to marry and indulge in normal sexual intercourse. His impulses are strong, but for fifteen or more years, they are supposed to be held in abeyance. This problem is becoming more and more serious because of the relatively late marriages which our economic system imposes. A young man feels that he cannot marry until he can support his wife, and this only becomes possible, as a rule during his middle or late twenties. Meanwhile, his sexual urges are supposed to be non-existent! Unfortunately, this is not the case. As a matter of fact, his urges are as strong at this time in his life as they ever are thereafter; he experiences numerous erections and is subject to nocturnal emissions or wet dreams. There is probably a good deal of talk about girls and sex among his associates; the tendency to masturbate is strong. Young men may seek satisfaction by consorting with prostitutes. Now is the time to point out to them the dangers involved in so doing; do not preach or moralize, but explain frankly the disasterous consequences which result from contracting some venereal disease as referred to elsewhere in this book. Explain that these are not like ordinary diseases, but that their effects may last throughout life. And be sure to emphasize the fact that venereal diseases are contracted not alone from prostitutes, but from promiscuous girls who may have a disease without knowing it, spreading it among all the young men with whom they have sexual relations. The possible danger of this must always be borne in mind.
Girls also undergo a number of marked physical changes at puberty. The voice does not change, as the boy’s voice does, but her breasts fill out and develop, hair appears on the Mons Veneris and on other parts of the body, the slim, boyish figure changes to the curved, typically feminine outline, and menstruation begins. Her sexual feelings and desires also develop, though these are normally not so strong or so localized as they are in the case of boys. She may become shy and self-conscious, as explained in the section devoted to Adolescence (See the companion book devoted to the sexual problems of girls).
In addition to these physical changes, both boys and girls manifest various mental and emotional changes also. The boy may become moody and even sulky, and begin to protest against parental authority. Most boys and girls tend to regard their parents as old-fashioned, their views of life out-of-date, unsuited to the present generation. Tact and diplomacy will overcome this, to a great extent, and if the parents have been frank and natural with their children, this resentment will not be felt, and the child will feel free to discuss his sex problems, knowing that he will receive sympathetic understanding. Fathers and mothers are apt to forget that they, too, have passed through these same periods in their lives; they shut their minds to this and pretend to themselves that they have never done so. This is far from honest, and places a barrier between themselves and their children which should not exist. If the home atmosphere were frank, harmonious and happy, children would grow up with a normal, wholesome attitude towards life, and the problem of juvenile delinquency would be largely abolished. It is up to the parents to see that this is the case!