Gonorrhoea is usually passed from one person to another through sexual contact. You can get the infection if you come into contact with infected semen (cum or pre-cum) or infected discharge from the vagina, throat or rectum (back passage).
Gonorrhoea is most commonly spread through:
unprotected (without a condom) vaginal or anal sex
oral sex (going down, giving head) without a condom or dam (a latex or plastic square that covers the anus or female genitals).
sharing sex toys if you don’t wash them or cover them with a new condom each time they’re used.
Gonorrhoea can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby (see What happens if I get gonorrhoea when I’m pregnant? on page 13).
In women, it’s possible for the bacteria to spread from vaginal discharge to the rectum. You don’t need to have anal sex for this to happen.
If gonorrhoea bacteria comes into contact with the eye (for example if it’s transferred from the genitals to the eye by the fingers) it can cause conjunctivitis (an eye infection). This isn’t common.
It’s not clear if gonorrhoea can be spread by transferring infected semen or vaginal fluid to another person’s genitals on the fingers or through rubbing vulvas (female genitals) together.
You can’t get gonorrhoea from kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.