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Menstruation, Wet Dreams and Related Subjects

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Apart from communicating the basics of reproduction, parents also need to provide pubescent youngsters with practical information about how to cope with the puberty-related physical changes that their bodies will shortly undergo, and to teach children how to properly care for their developing bodies. Young men need to learn how to cope with spontaneous erections and ejaculations, and young women need to learn how to cope with their menstrual periods.

Information for Boys: Spontaneous Erections, Wet Dreams & Masturbation

upset teen boyAs boys progress through puberty, they will experience Spermarche, or their first ejaculation of semen, the fluid containing sperm. Accompanying this unprecedented event is the involuntary erection of the penis, also unprecedented in a boy's life. These events can be exciting, but they also take some getting used to and can be sources of embarrassment.

Young men may be more comfortable talking with other men in their family about male experiences like spontaneous erections or ejaculations, but these conversations need not be limited to men. Women can provide a unique perspective and in some cases a boy may be more comfortable talking to a trusted female member of his family. In either case, caregivers need to walk the delicate line between providing necessary information and respecting boys' privacy and sensitivities.

Some of the information boys may benefit from is practical in nature. For example, some boys will experience public erections and will benefit from tips on how to manage these events.

Caregivers can teach youth to avoid embarrassment by suggesting ways to hide erections while in public, perhaps behind a textbook or coat in their arm or by remaining seated rather than standing up, which would make the erection more noticeable. Moreover, some youth can be taught how to hasten the end of a spontaneous erection by thinking or imagining about unpleasant or disgusting situations, which will be followed by a deflating biological response.

Wet Dreams

The first spontaneous ejaculation often happens during sleep, hence the term nocturnal emission or "wet dream". Boys will generally be between ages 12 and 16 when this event first occurs. Wet dreams are pleasurable, but waking up from them can be messy. Boys who anticipate that their parents will be upset with them for messing up their sheets may feel shame. For this reason, it is important that boys be informed about wet dreams and how to handle them when they occur before their first wet dream arrives. Caregivers should let youth know that wet dreams are just a natural part of growing up that happen to all young men at some point. Young men awakening from a wet dream can simply collect their sheets, apply an appropriate stain-treatment product on the affected areas (as otherwise a stain may occur) and launder them.

On a side note, parents may want to teach their boys how to do laundry by themselves and have them get into the habit of routinely changing their own sheets prior to the typical age of their first wet dream. Doing so will foster boys' general independence but more specifically, will enable them to recover from the wet dream with a maximum of privacy retained. Boys who can do their own laundry need not inform mom that they have had a wet dream until and unless they choose to share the information.


Boys' early experience of arousal and orgasm feels really good and provides them with strong physiological incentive to masturbate. It is thus extremely common and normal for pubescent boys to experiment with various ways of masturbating themselves so as to achieve more orgasms. As a part of this process of learning to masturbate, boys will almost certainly learn about and be drawn to look at pornographic images which today are easily accessible via the Internet. They will also experiment with various ways to clean up after themselves after accomplishing orgasm, not all of them strictly hygienic. Boys and parents may both find themselves embarrassed by this masturbatory activity and reluctant to discuss it. Nonetheless, in our view, parents should try to convey the following information at a minimum:

1) Masturbation is a normal part of sexuality the vast majority of adult men engage in it, at least on occasion. It will not cause disease or blindness or other infirmity. It is not sinful or perverted.

2) Though it is quite common for men to use pornography as a masturbatory aide, it is best to not do so, or at least to use judgment while doing so, as the images depicted in pornography do not model or depict healthy sexual relationships between people who love one another. Viewing such material may make it more difficult for some young men to mature and develop healthy, adult sexual relationships when they are older.

3) It is best to clean up after one's self using disposable toilet tissue which can be hygienically flushed away.


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