Women's universities in Japan criticized a weekly magazine Wednesday for publishing an article that ranks universities by the sexual availability of female students.

"In its Dec. 25, 2018 issue, Shukan Spa! published an article that treats women in a disparaging and misogynistic way. This university finds this and similar articles that damage the honor and dignity of women extremely deplorable," Ferris University said in a statement.

The university in Yokohama, near Tokyo, was among five universities in a list published in the men's magazine ranking their female students on how easy it is to persuade them to have sex at drinking parties.

Jissen Women's University, which is also among the five, said the Tokyo-based institution has sent a protest letter to the publisher, Fusosha Publishing Inc.

"We strongly protest that the magazine printed an article that led to women being insulted and damaged the honor and dignity of our university as well as its students," the letter said.

Tokyo-based Otsuma Women's University, another university on the list, said it plans to send a protest letter to Fusosha shortly.

Fusosha apologized Monday for using sensational language in an article on drinking parties as an online petition campaign criticizing the magazine gains momentum.

Takashi Inukai, editor-in-chief of the weekly, said in a statement that it went too far in publishing an article "that may have offended readers."

Inukai said the magazine should have used descriptions such as female students with whom "you can have a closer relationship." Inukai said they selected the controversial expressions "to try to appeal to readers."

Kazuna Yamamoto, a 21-year-old senior at International Christian University, started the online petition campaign asking Fusosha to suspend publication of the magazine and apologize. As of Wednesday morning, the petition had gathered more than 38,000 signatures.

Yamamoto, who said she has been inspired by the #MeToo movement, wants magazines to stop publishing content "sexualizing, objectifying and disrespecting women."

"I want to see a change in Japan," she said.

The magazine, launched in 1988, is published by Fusosha under the wing of Fuji Media Holdings Inc. along with Fuji Television Network Inc., a major broadcaster, and The Sankei Shimbun Inc., which publishes the namesake daily.

Shukan Spa! has a circulation of 108,000 copies, according to the Japan Magazine Publishers Association.