Skip to main content

A study of white middle-class adolescent boys' responses to “semenarche” (the first ejaculation)

Abstract

Few empirical studies focus on how boys respond to puberty. This paper presents the results of a questionnaire and interview survey of 36 white middleclass adolescent male camp counselors (mean age, 18.4 years) that addressed pubertal changes and first ejaculation (“semenarche”). It is a descriptive and hypothesis generating study. The first ejaculation, biologically significant in sexual and reproductive functioning, was found to be psychologically meaningful but socially invisible. The mean age at semenarche was 12.9 years. All of the boys in the group had sex education in school, yet many felt unprepared for their first ejaculation, which occurred earlier than they expected and before formal education. Those who felt prepared expressed more positive feelings and coped better. Common responses to semenarche included surprise, curiosity, pleasure, and confusion. Most subjects did not tell anyone that this event occurred and many boys initially confused ejaculation and urination. The association of the first ejaculation with sexuality makes it a charged event. Psychosocial and developmental difficulties in sexual education for young males are noted.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Behrman, R. E. (1992).Nelson's Textbook of Pediatrics (14th ed.). W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freud, S. (1959a). The Sexual Enlightenment of Children—an Open Letter to Dr. M. Furst, 1907. InStandard Edition (Vol. 9). London: Hogarth Press. (Originally published 1895).

    Google Scholar 

  • Freud, S. (1959b). On the Sexual Theories of Children, 1908. InStandard Edition (Vol. 9). London: Hogarth Press. (Originally published 1895).

    Google Scholar 

  • Gaddis, A., and Brooks-Gunn, J. (1985). The male experience of pubertal change.J. Youth Adolesc. 14: 61–69.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirsch, M., Lunenfeld, B., Modan, M., Ovadia, J., and Shemesh, J. (1988). Spermarche-The age of onset of sperm emission.Sex. Active Teen. 2: 34–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, H., and Saddock, B. J. (1989).Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry (5th ed.). Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., and Martin, C. E. (1948),Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lerner, H. (1976). Parental mislabeling of female genitals as a determinant of penis envy and learning inhibitions in women. InFemale Psychology—Contemporary Psychoanalytic View, ed. H. Blum. International Universities Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Normal adolescence: Its dynamics and impact. (1968). In Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (Volume VI, Report No. 68).

  • Piaget, P. (1972).The Child's Conception of the World. Littlefield Adams, Totowa, NJ.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rey, H. A. (1941).Curious George. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

    Google Scholar 

  • Richardson, D. W., and Short, R. V. (1978). Time of onset of sperm production in boys.J. Biosocial Sci. Suppl. 5, 15–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sarrel, P. M. (1987). Personal communication.

  • Shipman, G. (1968), The psychodynamics of sex education.Family Coord. 7, 3–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tanner, J. M. (1971), Sequence, tempo, and individual variation in growth and development of boys and girls aged twelve to sixteen.Daedalus 100, 907–930.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

Received M.D. from Yale School of Medicine.

Received M.D. from Yale School of Medicine.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stein, J.H., Reiser, L.W. A study of white middle-class adolescent boys' responses to “semenarche” (the first ejaculation). J Youth Adolescence 23, 373–384 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01536725

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01536725

Keywords

  • Empirical Study
  • Health Psychology
  • Formal Education
  • Young Male
  • Generate Study