Courtship behaviours allow animals to interact and display their qualities before committing to reproduction. In fly courtship, the female decides whether or not to mate and is thought to display receptivity by slowing down to accept the male. Very little is known on the neuronal brain circuitry controlling female receptivity. Here we use genetic manipulation and behavioural studies to identify a novel set of neurons in the brain that controls sexual receptivity in the female without triggering the postmating response. We show that these neurons, defined by the expression of the transcription factor apterous, affect the modulation of female walking speed during courtship. Interestingly, we found that the apterous neurons required for female receptivity are neither doublesex nor fruitless positive suggesting that apterous neurons are not specified by the sex-determination cascade. Overall, these findings identify a neuronal substrate underlying female response to courtship and highlight the central role of walking speed in the receptivity behaviour.