Fantastic post by writer Gayle Forman on her blog here about characters in YA novels having sex.
It beautifully lays out many of the thoughts I've had myself about characters in teen novels having sex. Yes, I think girls should wait until they care about and trust their partners, that they should be educated about sex, that they shouldn't be pressured, etc. I'm all for waiting as long as possible, really giving it some thought before you plunge and so on.
But having sex doesn't necessarily mean you're a slut, or a mean girl, or horribly damaged. The consequences of having sex can be huge (hello! pregnancy, STD's) but they don't have to be. Too much tiptoeing around nice, normal, fabulous sex makes it seem forbidden or horrific or dangerous. Nonsense. Many teens have sex eventually with their partners and they have no bad consequences and plenty of good ones.
Seems to me that depicting sex in a positive, normal light is just as important (if not more!) than showing the bad things that can happen. Teens will relate to the characters who eventually sleep together, the way real teens do. And perhaps the modeling of caring, careful sexual relations between teens will help young people navigate their way to adulthood in a way that works for them.