Sondra Theodore has claimed Playboy "made [her] a porn star against [her] will".

Hugh Hefner has been accused of exploiting the Playmates

Hugh Hefner has been accused of exploiting the Playmates

The former Playmate - who dated the adult business' late founder Hugh Hefner from 1976 to 1981 - told how she had agreed to shoot a video because she was reassured fully nude footage would never be seen because it wouldn't meet primetime decency standards but when the Playboy Channel launched in 1980 and was not bound by regulations, she was shocked to find herself a prominent feature.

She said: "They pieced [outtake footage] together, released it in cable without telling me that it was going to be happening, not paying me for it — and that was soft porn. They had made me a porn star against my will."

Hefner - who died in 2017 aged 91 - had publicly promised the Playboy Channel would be "tasteful" but former Playmate Cristy Thom doesn't think it was.

Speaking on 'Secrets of Playboy', Cristy - who can still find her footage on online porn sites - said: "It bordered on kind of porn-ish. And that's why we did Playboy. That's why we didn't do Penthouse, we didn't do Hustler."

The media mogul had began to push boundaries in the 1970s when raunchier brands Penthouse and Hustler emerged, with Playboy sharing its first full-frontal pictorial in January 1972.

And many of the women claimed that, although they gave consent for their pictures to be taken, they didn't realise what they were signing or were not in a position to give informed consent.

Sondra said: "It's a big deal to take your clothes off for a camera.

"A man [is] taking the pictures. All of a sudden, one of the makeup girls comes up and hands you [a piece of paper], 'Can you just sign this for us? Because we're taking your picture, you know, we have to have your permission.' You don't know what you're signing, really.

"Sometimes they got the girls stoned, partied out, and then they'd hand them the contract. They had their ways," she recalled. "Through this, you signed your life away forever."

Former Playmate Miki Garcia added: "Several Playmates took their photos at 17 years of age with the consent of their parent. They were signing contracts in front of either Hefner or someone of his choosing, and he's holding these photos until they are of age.

"[Hefner] took it for granted that he could control us and that he could get away with it.

"Over time, I realised that what was supposed to be the launching pad for these young women was really a pit. ...The reality is, once you sign that release, you are no longer in control, and Hefner was the one in control of your image...

"Hefner sold us. He took our photos and put them on hardcore porn sites."

In a statement before the series launched, Playboy's current team denounced the alleged "abhorrent actions" of Hefner and stressed their commitment to "positive change".

They added in a statement: "First and foremost, we want to say: we trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences.

"As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security and accountability are paramount, and anything less is inexcusable."

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