Chapter 2: Primary & Secondary Sex Characteristics

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What are primary sex characteristics?

Primary sex characteristics develop while you’re in your mother’s uterus. This includes any of the body structures directly related to reproduction. Some examples of primary sex characteristics include ovaries, testicles, and external genitalia.

What are secondary sex characteristics?

Secondary sex characteristics start to appear when a child begins to go through puberty. These characteristics are not directly a part of the reproductive system. They are, however, impacted by and connected to reproductive hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. A few examples of secondary sex characteristics include hair in various places (face, pubic area, underarms), the “Adam’s apple”, and breast tissue.

What is puberty?

Once you’re at a college level (I am, some of you reading this may not be. That’s okay! You still need to know this stuff!), most students and staff have gone through puberty. We’ve grown hair in weird places, started sweating more, started periods, grown breasts, developed an Adam’s apple, maybe your voice got deeper? However, this doesn’t mean we all understand what puberty is or how it works.

For the majority of people, puberty starts between the ages of 12 and 14 years old, though it may happen as early as 8 years old and as late as 21 years old. Most people have completed puberty by the time they’re 25 years old.

Some things that tend to happen during puberty include a growth spurt (you know, people get taller), your boobs may get bigger, your uterus will start shedding it’s lining once a month, and if you have testicles you will start to produce sperm.

Puberty is typically described as the time when a person becomes sexually mature. It will affect people differently, depending on their chromosomal sex. At the time of puberty, you will begin to feel sexual impulses. This is when many young people start to experiment with masturbation and the act of sex. It’s important that they’re provided with honest, accurate information on sex, so that if they decide to do it, they can do it safely.


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