Body, Blood, and Breath
United we stand. Humanity shares this unbreakable bond--earthly body, one blood, one source of breath. As our bodies grow out of childhood and journey toward adulthood, biological changes occur as we enter through the middle door called puberty.
For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret. (Psalm 139:13, 15a).
Puberty occurs when part of the brain called the hypothalamus begins to produce a hormone (chemical) called gonadotropin that has an effect on the testes and ovaries causing an increase of sex hormones—estrogen in girls and testosterone in boys.
This hormonal activity can begin from 8-13 years in girls and 9-14 years in boys. At this time, a girl’s ovaries and a boy’s testes begin to function.
A Girl’s Ovaries
There are two main functions of the ovaries in the female body: 1) They produce oocytes (eggs) for fertilization; and 2) They produce the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. The primary function of estrogen is development of female secondary sexual characteristics. These include breasts endometrium (uterus), and regulation of menstrual cycle. Progesterone is a hormone that is involved in the menstrual cycle, the fertilization of ovum and sperm into an embryo (baby), and pregnancy (gestation).
Remember, your primary sexual characteristics are present at birth and comprise the external and internal genitalia—the vagina and ovaries. The female reproductive system is mostly located inside the body. These internal sex organs are the vagina, uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The external organs include the organs of the vulva—the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening (1). The vagina is connected to the uterus at the cervix. The female reproductive system is responsible for producing gametes (ova, or eggs) and to carry a fetus (baby) to full term.
A Boy’s Testes
There are two main functions of the testes in the male body: 1) They produce sperm, the male reproductive cell; and 2) They produce the primary male sex hormone, testosterone. Testosterone is a sex hormone that is thought to regulate sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm. Generally, testosterone helps to develop the secondary sexual characteristics of the male body.
Remember, your primary sexual characteristics are present at birth and comprise the external and internal genitalia—the penis and testes. The male reproductive system is mostly located outside of the body. These external organs include the penis, scrotum, and testicles (testes). Internal organs include the vas deferens, prostate, and urethra (2). The male reproductive system is responsible for sexual function, as well as urination.
Now all this can be wrapped up in an interactive, multi-media science class, but what cannot be “wrapped” up so cleanly is how we cope and deal with these physical bodily changes both psychologically and spiritually.
At the onset of puberty, our thoughts move from needing concrete objects or pictures to understand the world around us to being able to conceptualize abstract ideas like justice, fairness, truth, and especially love—for self and for others. Our concepts about, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” come forward as we compare our body development with other peers, and as we listen to the voices of culture instructing us how to cover and protect a body we used to be free to play in naked and bare.
With the effects of the hormones rushing through our bodies while adjusting to puberty in our varied cultural contexts, the human psychological element can react by having mood swings—fits of anger, outbursts of laughter, then tears, or confusion, then frustration, and so on in an unpredictable cycle. There is a need for privacy to study your growing body and to think about who you are and who you want to be. And, above all else, there is a “need” to be seen as a sexually attractive.
That “need” must be met with maturity; but at this stage in human development (8 – 13 years), the inter-relationship between sexual development, cognitive (thinking) development, and emotional/psychological (how you express your emotions based on the way you think) is still immature.
A young person going through puberty between ages 8 - 13 (early adolescence) lacks the maturity needed to make wise and healthy decisions regarding what to do with their sexuality and are ill-prepared to cope with the consequences of sexual activity. Though adolescents can think logically in terms of cause and effect (If I do this, then that can happen), they are also confronted with ego-centrism (a wanting to challenge the rules of the society in which they live in order to find a voice in it) which often makes them engage in high risk behaviors such as sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol addiction, violent contact sports, or street violence. For boys, the drive for sex is very strong. For girls, the drive to be loved is very strong.
But who is the driver to steer them in the direction toward healthy living?
Growing sexually mature requires a period of adjustment for the early adolescent: time to learn how to live with the physical changes of the body, time to reflect on how these changes make you feel, and a time to know who to reach out and talk to in order to cope within your particular society and its rules. The maturity the early adolescent needs in order to make wise and healthy decisions regarding what to do with their sexuality is found in the presence of the sexually mature person or people in their lives. “Who are the sexually mature; and how do I get there?” Let’s continue our discussion in the next blog.
© 2021 by Patience Osei-Anyamesem. All rights reserved. Published by The Light In Me Enterprise. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews or other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Unless otherwise stated, all scripture quotations are from The New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1. Female reproductive system: https://www.oncofertility.msu.edu.
2. Male reproductive system: https://www.my.clevelandclinic.org.