The adsorption of semifluorinated alkanethiols on Au/mica was studied by scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). The adlayer structure produced is based on a p(2 x 2) structure though lines of molecules displayed extensive kinks and bends. In addition, a considerable variation in the contrast of molecular features is found. Molecular modeling calculations confirm that, for the fluorinated thiols, inequivalently adsorbed molecules within a p(2 x 2) registry are present, an aspect that endows the local structure of the adlayer with a higher flexibility in comparison to nonfluorinated thiols, where one adsorption site is strongly favored in a (root 3 x root 3)R30 degrees structure. Simulated STM imaging on the optimized systems successfully recovered the effects on the molecular feature contrast induced by the flexibility of the fluorinated thiol adlayer. (C) 2007 American Institute of Physics.