Aim. This article is an exploration of young women's experiences of having a sexually transmitted infection. Background. Sexually transmitted infections are prevalent worldwide and have serious physical and psychological sequelae. Although some aspects of having sexually transmitted infections have been identified in the literature, the stigmatised nature of these infections means that relatively little is known about the experiential aspects of these conditions. Design. This research used a qualitative feminist approach. Methods. Data were collected in 2007 via online interviews with ten women. Thematic analysis was guided by a feminist narrative technique. Results. Findings revealed the women had not believed themselves to be at risk of sexually transmitted infections because of perceptions they held about the sorts of women who contract these infections. Because these perceptions were incompatible with their self-perceived views, the women initially experienced a disruption in their sense of self. To facilitate the restoration of their previously held sense of self, these women engaged in wishful thinking and denial. Conclusion. This study illuminates how perceptions of sexually transmitted infections influence the way young women perceive themselves in the context of these infections. Awareness of the detrimental impact contracting sexually transmitted infections can have on young women can help nurses to provide services that facilitate positive and effective coping strategies among this group.Relevance to clinical practice. Nurses providing care to women with sexually transmitted infections should promote positive coping strategies that could help curb non-disclosure and denial among young women who contract these infections. Education focused on sexually transmitted infections should emphasis that all sexually active individuals are at risk of these infections, which could potentially minimise the shame felt by persons who contract these infections. Further, recognition of the gender issues that limit women's ability to practise safer sex should be incorporated into safer sex education and campaigns.