The formation of Indian-American women’s sexual self-concept is, however, influenced not only by the white American beauty standard but also by the West’s fascination with the “mysterious” East… the image of being considered simultaneously “ugly” and “exotic” was one of the most detrimental to their self-concept. In fact, the exotic-ugly dichotomy is perhaps the diasporic manifestation of the Asian-Indian goddess-whore construct.
The contradictory beauty stereotypes of Indian-American women as both exotic and ugly are coupled to sexual stereotypes. Indeed, in white American’s categorization of racial others as sexually deviant, the Asian-Indian immigrant community is caught in a dual metaphor as both asexual and hypersexual… the “exotic” Indian-American woman is associated with the Kama Sutra, primal sexual energy, and other images of hypersexuality. Simultaneously, the alien, “ugly” Indian-American woman is associated with chastity, sexual repression, and hyperintellectualism.
Regardless of which end of the exotic/ugly spectrum an Indian-American daughter aligns herself with, such unattainable, double-jeopardy beauty and sexual standards most often lead to negative sexual self-perception. Although such negative self-perception may begin in the schoolyard, its impact often manifests itself in postadolescent rebellions.
In the words of Sreemoee Mukherjee, a twenty-three-year-old Rutgers University graduate, “Half the girls in college were leading double lives. They partied wildly and had boyfriends at school, but were also arranged to marry someone from India. We weren’t in the mainstream in high school due to our parents’ rules and regulations. In college, we want to be mainstream, to be what Hollywood shows college students should be. I think Indian guys and girls always had a complex about what America thinks we should look like…and how we look at ourselves is negative in comparison to other Americans.”