HIV research often depicts 'adolescents' and 'youth' as having 'unique' qualities which predispose them to sexual risk. Yet, the evidence points to unsafe sexual behaviour as not being socially uniform. At a time when the idea of 'risk groups' for HIV is being subjected to increasing public scrutiny, researchers also need to question assumptions about youth 'risk'. This study examines whether young gay men are at greater risk for unsafe sexual behaviour than older gay men. A questionnaire was administered to 284 predominately gay identified men in Melbourne, Australia, recruited from gay groups, health clinics, gay pubs and nightclubs, sex on premises venues, and the social networks of these men. The results show that, while there was no difference in the level of recent unprotected anal intercourse between age groups, young men (under 25 years) from gay commercial venues or who did not belong to a gay organization(s) had a significantly higher level of recent unprotected anal sex than other young gay men. These results suggest that sexual safety may be more appropriately explained as a social process, rather than a youthful characteristic, and that researchers should include cohort effects into their analyses.