OBJECTIVES: To describe how men narrate the process of bodily change as a trigger to presentation for a suspected sexually transmissible infection. METHODS: The study was qualitative with 18 men presenting at a specialist sexual health centre in an urban setting. RESULTS: All men gave narratives that included accounts of bodily changes prior to presentation. The nature, severity and persistence of those changes were unrelated to subsequent diagnosis. Men responded particularly to visual changes as cues to action. CONCLUSIONS: The men exhibited limited skills in understanding the significance and the specifics of bodily change as they may relate to a sexually transmissible infection. While these men identified a broad range of changes as potentially indicative of a sexually transmissible infection, their ability to act on visceral rather than visual cues appears constrained in that they were less able to respond to the feel of their body than the way that it looked.