Kids' Health
Visit website  
Home › Topics › Nearly Teens > 

Secret boy's business - what is happening to your body?

penis; genitals; genitalia; testes; testicles; glans; circumcision; scrotum; groin; breasts; foreskin;


About your 'privates'

the male bodyWhatever you may have called them when you were a little kid, in your family or among your mates your 'privates' have got other names used by doctors and other medical professionals.

You will probably have to talk about what's 'down there' at some stage so let's be sure of their official names, penis (say pee-nis), scrotum (say sk-row-tum) and testicles (say test-ick-ulz)

The scrotum is the name for the sac that hangs below the penis and inside this sac  you can feel the testicles.

This area of the body has lots of nerve endings, which make it very sensitive. There are no protecting bones around here so this area can be easily hurt.



Testes (balls or testicles)

The testes are two soft lumps in the scrotum where sperm are made. Testes means two of them, and testis is one.

The testes get larger at puberty. Some boys have larger testes than others, but it does not matter how large the testes are, they will still make a lot of sperm.

Often one testis will be a little larger that the other, or hang lower than the other. This is normal - it does not affect the health of the testis.

When you get cold - maybe going for a swim in cold water your testes may move up into lower abdomen - and then move back again when you get warm again.


All baby boys are born with a 'hood' of skin covering the glans or head of the penis. This is called the foreskin.

Most boys have this foreskin over the head of their penis left in place, but an operation called circumcision is done on many boys. This foreskin is removed and the end of the penis is left uncovered. This does not affect the health of the penis or ability to have sex, or feelings when a man has sex.

diagram - circumcised and uncircumcised penis

Circumcision 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 cultural reasons.
  • It may be that some people believe it is easier for boys to keep the penis clean if the foreskin is removed.
  • Being circumcised does lessen the likelihood of some infections.
  • Sometimes there may be a medical reason for circumcision.

The operation is usually done by a doctor when the boy is under 10 days old. The operation hurts but the operation is very quick and the baby boy will be given some medicine or cream spread on the penis to make the pain less. There is a very small risk of bleeding or damage to the penis.

Sometimes older boys and men have to have a circumcision operation. If you need one you will have an anaesthetic so that you will not feel the pain of the operation.


Even tiny babies sometimes get an erection (when the penis grows bigger and stands up or erect), but about the time of puberty boys start getting more erections, sometimes without any obvious trigger.

  • thinking about someone you are sexually attracted toThey may happen when you are embarrassed, and they may cause you to feel more embarrassed because you think that everyone can see it. People do not usually watch other people closely, and no one is likely to notice that you have an erection.
  • 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.

Penis size

As boys grow through puberty and into young manhood their penis gets longer and thicker. As not everyone grows at the same rate some boys may be worried their penis will not grow or that other people might tease them if their penis is smaller that others.

It is important to know that when the penis is limp the size for an adult male can vary between 7.5cm and 15cm. In cold temperatures or after swimming in cold water it can get smaller! It doesn't matter what size a penis may be when limp, it generally grows to around 16cm when erect (sometimes a bit shorter and sometimes longer).

If you are still worrying about this then have a talk with your dad or your doctor. Don't believe all that 'locker room' talk you hear from the other boys your age. Everyone gets a bit worried at times when going through puberty - even those super cool guys... and even girls!

Wet dreams

Around the time of puberty most boys start having 'wet dreams'. During their sleep they get an erection and then ejaculate (ee-jack-u-late) without knowing this is happening. An ejaculation is when sperm, and the fluid in which sperm live, come out of the penis.

Boys find a wet spot on their pyjamas and on their sheets.

This is not urine – you have not wet the bed.

Fathers and other men know about wet dreams, so you can talk to a trusted male if you feel a bit worried or embarrassed.


Rubbing your penis until you have an ejaculation is called masturbation (mass-turb-bay-shun).

  • Masturbation does not cause any harm to your body.
  • It is something that is done in private.
  • Talk to a trusted adult if you have questions or worries about it.
  • Talking about it with other boys your age may not give you the right information
    talking with other kids your age

Taking care

Because the genital area is so sensitive, it is important that boys learn to look after it.

Boys can do this by:

  • keep clean by washing regularlyKeeping clean and washing carefully every day. You can gently pull your foreskin back and wash under it. You don't need to use soap. Sometimes there is a white substance under the foreskin (called smegma). This is normal and healthy and does not need to be washed away.
  • Telling an adult if you are hurting, swollen or your wee is burning.
  • Wearing a box if you are playing some ball games such as cricket and baseball. It really hurts if you get hit down there!


You can't walk around all the time wearing a 'box' or athletic 'cup' as it is sometimes called. So, yes, you may get hurt there and it will be painful! You may feel really sick and even throw up!

Most times it will be painful for a while, and then will feel better.

secret boys businessYou need to talk to a doctor if:

  • The pain is really bad.
  • It is still really bad after an hour.
  • The scrotum is swollen, bruised or cut.
  • If you are still feeling like throwing up ages after.

An injury to the scrotum rarely causes any lasting damage… but it certainly can hurt.

What's happening - when the testes hurt or there is pain when you pass urine?

Sometimes a boy may get pain in the scrotum or testicles and he hasn't been hit there.

diagram - side view the male genital area

One testis may start to hurt badly - and this may mean there is something seriously wrong. Ask your parent to get you to a doctor quickly.

  • Sometimes he may feel really itchy around there.
  • Sometimes it may hurt when he is doing a wee.

If one of these things is happening to you tell mum, dad or whoever cares for you, so that you can get checked out at the doctors. You may have an infection.

Boys' breasts

All boys and men have breasts, but the amount of breast tissue is usually very small and their breasts do not show - apart from their nipples.

Around puberty many boys develop more breast tissue causing a small amount of swelling under their nipples. This is normal and it always goes away within a year or two.

Some boys are scared when this happens - and they worry that other people will see the swelling. To find out more have a look at the topic Boys' breasts.

Kids say

  • "I was scared when I found some sticky stuff in my PJs. Dad told me it is normal so I felt ok."
  • "I got hit by a cricket ball when I didn't have a box on. I was very sore. I always wear a box for cricket now."
  • "I have one testicle bigger than the other. I thought there was something wrong with me but the doctor says it's normal and lots of boys do."
  • "If you start getting an erection in public, it's a good idea to start saying your tables or your alphabet backwards in your mind. It works for me."
  • "I got really sore and it hurt when I was doing a wee. I got some tablets from the doctor and I'm better now. It was an infection."
  • "I thought I was growing breasts like a girl but the doctor said it was ok. It was called 'guynee something' I read about it in the topic called Boys breasts. It was just for a while and I'm ok now."

Dr Kim says:

Dr KimEveryone feels a bit embarrassed at times especially when showing their 'private parts '. After all they're sort of 'private' aren't they?

If you are worried, you should never feel embarrassed talking about your worries to those you trust. And remember that doctors won't feel embarrassed. After all, they are there to help you keep a happy, healthy body.

Look at the related topics under the Feedback button for more information about how your body is changing as you reach puberty.

back to top

We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


Home › Topics › Nearly Teens >