The striated bulbocavernosus (BC) muscles of the rodent perineum are innervated by motoneurons in the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB). In adulthood, the BC muscles are present in males only. However, newborn female rats have BC muscles, and SNB cells have made both anatomical and functional contact with them. Nevertheless, both motoneurons and muscles will degenerate unless androgens are administered perinatally. Such androgen treatment appears to be acting primarily on the BC muscles themselves, since the muscles are spared by androgen even after the loss of supraspinal neural afferents or even the entire lumbosacral spinal cord. Furthermore, androgen can spare SNB motoneurons that are themselves androgen insensitive. Perinatal steroid treatments can also alter the final spinal location of SNB cells as determined by retrograde tracing studies. Androgen continues to modify the morphology of the SNB system in adulthood, altering the size of both motoneurons and targets, which may be important for the reproductive function of BC muscles. Finally, the sexually dimorphic character of motoneuronal groups innervating perineal muscles seems to be common in mammals, since the homologue of the SNB, Onuf's nucleus, has more cells in males than in females in both dogs and humans.