In an inconspicuous Santiago office building, Jane Morgan, known across Chile as Japi Jane, takes her place in front of a microphone, next to the three male hosts of Un País Generoso, the afternoon-rush-hour program on Chile’s top radio station. Jane thanks them for their warm welcome before reaching into her purse for a gift. It’s silver, about the size of a pen, and shaking ferociously.
Werne Núñez — the burliest and most visually aroused of the hosts — is the first to get his hands on the vibrator, called “crave.” As he shakes with excitement, the radio engineer hits a button and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” plays. Everyone in the studio laughs.
Jane is appearing on the show today to promote her first-ever workshop for men, after years of helping Chilean women overcome their sexual hang-ups. But her message is all but drowned out by the excitement of the toy.
“Let’s put that thing up to the microphone so everyone can hear it,” Núñez says. Jane obliges, and the vibrator rattles the airwaves as millions of Chileans ride home from work.
Jane isn’t quite sure how any of this happened. She first arrived in the Chilean capital in 1999 for a semester abroad studying Spanish. She fell in love, and returned in 2001 to be with her “future ex-husband.” A young, business-minded grad from Washington University in St. Louis, Jane landed a great job at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The position would have likely led to the typical expat life, that is, if she hadn’t made a simple observation in 2006 that set off a bizarre chain of events that led to her becoming a famous radio and television personality, sex store entrepreneur, and the nation’s number-one sexpert. That observation: To Jane’s surprise, none of her chilena friends used vibrators.
On a whim, Jane purchased some samples from German brand Fun Factory and began throwing sex-toy parties inspired by the Tupperware parties she’d seen growing up in the American Midwest. She called her home-delivery operation “Tuppersex” (a name that didn’t go over too well with a gaggle of irate lawyers at Tupperware).
At this point, Jane had left PricewaterhouseCoopers and was working for a foundation in Santiago that gave seed funding for small businesses run by nonprofits. Peddling adult toys was just a side job, but it became a full-time gig almost overnight when a major newspaper, La Nación, published a front-page story with a photo of Jane and her suitcase full of vibrators. The headline read: “Llame ya! Llegaron a Chile juegos eroticos a domicilio.” (“Call Now! Home delivery of erotic toys has arrived in Chile.”)
A few weeks later, Revista Paula, Chile’s top women’s magazine, did a four-page spread on Jane and “the new trend” of home sex toy parties. The next day — just three months after she purchased her first batch of sex toys — Jane quit her office job and never looked back.
“What I found at the beginning was that women were very interested in having a better sex life. They definitely had issues and definitely had a hard time talking about them because there was really nowhere to talk about them,” she says. “These Tuppersex parties were like the first time girls got together and said, ‘well shit, I haven’t had sex in three months’ or ‘I don’t know if my husband is a premature ejaculator but he lasts one minute.’”
Jane quickly realized that her new role was not just a saleswoman, but also an educator. She enrolled in classes at Centro de la Sexualidad de Chile in 2010 to better understand the psychology of human sexuality. Then, she began appearing on TV and radio shows, writing columns for Chilean newspapers and offering workshops to give Chilean women an outlet where they could express their sexual frustrations and learn how to overcome sexual fears.
Jane thinks being a foreigner enabled her to crack the psyche of the country in ways that would have been much harder for a local. “I was able to talk about this stuff more than a Chilean woman because my grandma, my aunt, my mom are not here watching me on television. I don’t have friends or teachers from high school here saying, ‘oh no, what’s Jane doing?’ I was free from those restraints, which was a big help,” particularly in a small and close-knit culture like Chile’s, where family gossip can play out like a telenovela.
To say that Jane single-handedly changed the vocabulary for sex toys in Chile would not be an exaggeration. She opened her first brick-and-mortar storefront in 2010, and knew right from the start that nobody would buy her products if they were called by their traditional name, consoladores (literally “consolers.”)
“It was like any vibrator or dildo was going to console you. It was so depressing,” she recalls. “I said right from the start that these are not consoladores and I never want to hear that word again.”
Now, adult toys are called just that: juguetes para grandes — or even “Japi Janes.” (Jane’s nickname is a play on the English word “happy.” The j sound in Spanish is similar to a strong h in English — “Chileans will write ‘Japi Birthday’ or ‘jajajaja,’” (instead of hahaha) explains Jane.)
“The biggest moment of pride in my life was when I overheard a girl talking on the street, and she said, ‘My boyfriend bought me a Japi Jane.’ Now, it’s not a consolador, it’s a Japi Jane. It’s like Kleenex. That’s the ultimate recognition for any brand.”
Visitors have to ring a speakeasy-like bell if they want to buy any “Japi Janes” at Jane’s flagship store in the Providencia neighborhood. Occupying a ground-floor condo in an apartment building tucked beneath the shadow of South America’s tallest — and most phallic — skyscraper, it’s one of three locations in and around Santiago.
The store is a true cabinet of curiosities. It has rooms dedicated to bachelorette party paraphernalia (like penis straws), sensual lubricants (such as edible oils), erotic costumes (think remote-control panties), and “Fifty Shades Of Grey”-inspired BDSM gear (like black bondage tape).
The largest space — presumably the old master bedroom — is a treasure trove of toys. There are vibrators with names like “Patchy Paul,” dildos called “The Boss Stub” and anthropomorphic anal beads that, if you squint a bit, could easily be mistaken for the 1980s Playskool toy Glo Worm.
Jane likes to think of her store as a classy alternative to the dimly lit back-alley sex shops of Santiago’s historic center. There is no pornography at her stores — except for a few DVDs that she describes as “artsy, hipster porn” — and the mood is playful and cheery.
“Before, people used to come in here really embarrassed, wearing sunglasses, asking for me to throw the box away and put what they bought in a dark plastic bag,” Jane explains. “Now, girls come with their friends, take a picture with their new vibrator and post it on Instagram. People are not scared anymore, and that’s huge.”
* * *
Standing in the lobby of a Downtown Santiago co-op one week after Jane’s radio appearance is a group of noticeably nervous middle-aged men. They’re huddled together outside an independent cinema and right next to an art gallery full of neon-lit children’s toys that are on display in less than innocent positions. They’ve come to learn how to better pleasure their partners. And Japi Jane is their guru.
Each receives a Pisco Sour and box of LifeStyles condoms before being marched into the cinema for a seminar unraveling the mysteries of the female body. Jane arrives at seven o’clock on the dot, greets every man in attendance with a customary kiss on the cheek and strolls up to the stage with a Coors Light in one hand and a green dildo in the other.
On the stage is a reminder of Jane’s humble Tuppersex beginnings: a red and gold suitcase full of sex toys. There are also gift bags containing coupons for one of Santiago’s notorious motels, where themed rooms are said to help put couples in the mood for romance.
There are about fifty men in attendance, but it is so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Jane begins the session by telling the men that thousands of Chilean women have come to her with their problems, and that she’s glad to finally have the opportunity to hear from the men. “Pleasure is a human right, a fundamental right,” she says, revving up the crowd. “But if women don’t know their own anatomy, or even what they want, how can you help them? That’s what we will explore tonight.”
Jane is wearing a turtleneck sweater dress with black leggings. It’s attractive, but not overly sexy — and that’s part of her shtick. “People get less embarrassed with me because I’m a gringa, I talk funny, and I’m just like a regular person,” she said before the event. “I’m not a model, I don’t dress sexy; this is just how I am.”
The men here seem incredibly comfortable with Jane and, slowly but surely, unleash a torrent of questions they’ve been dying to ask. The first queries come after Jane puts up a slide of the “the marvelous clitoris.” The nebula-like image glowing above the crowd looks like an early 2000s screensaver, leaving most men in the room perplexed. So, Jane has her assistant hand out a diagram while she fishes in her purse for a vagina hand puppet.
Jane uses the puppet to locate various parts of the female anatomy and explain the right and wrong ways of pleasuring a woman. She also elaborates on why foreplay is so important. “You guys are like a microwave that can get hot very fast,” she says. “We are like a traditional oven, and we take time to warm up.”
Next, Jane puts up a slide called “The Great Wall of Vagina” and declares: “It’s 2015, guys, time for oral sex to be reciprocated!” Following this proclamation is a diagram of how men and women see sex differently. A cartoon on the left shows two men talking about sex with a quote bubble that contains a nut and a bolt. A cartoon on the right has two women talking about sex with a quote bubble that contains a nut, bolt, hammer, wrench, clock, thermometer and leaky faucet.
Suddenly, things are really sinking in with the crowd. The men say the biggest problem they’re having with their partners is a lack of interest. They can’t get them to break away from their smartphones. They can’t get them to open up to new ideas.
One man with a moon-like bald patch begins recording Jane’s advice on shopping together for sex toys so he can send it to his wife via a WhatsApp voice message. Another feverishly scribbles in his notebook when he’s not probing Jane for advice in a quivering voice. Jane can barely switch the slides anymore. There are so many questions.
Jane ends her presentation with a slide detailing what Chilean women want from their men. The men in the cinema react by offering a list of their own requests. It’s the beginning of a dialogue — something that probably wouldn’t have happened out loud in this conservative, Catholic society if this naïve girl from Missouri hadn’t arrived on the scene with a carefree attitude and a suitcase full of sex toys.